Nanotechnology has long been heralded as the next generation in medical technology – scientists are currently working on nanobots able to diagnose and heal the body from the inside. With that in mind, researchers from the University of British Columbia believe they have found a way to propel nanobots through the human body – by creating strong and flexible artificial muscles.

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According to the research team, the fake muscles have enough power to “rotate objects a thousand times their own weight” and are “as flexible as an elephant’s trunk or octopus limbs”. The UBC team have not created the artificial muscles in order to create a modern-day Superman, but to help save peoples’ lives.

The team’s research was published in the journal Science Express, where they outline how the muscles are made from carbon nanotubes. The devices are spun into helical yarns by an electrochemical charge, which causes them to twist and untwist like a human muscle.

“What’s amazing is that these barely visible yarns composed of fibers 10,000 times thinner than a human hair can move and rapidly rotate objects two thousand times their own weight,” said John Madden from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in a press release. “While not large enough to drive an arm or power a car, this new generation of artificial muscles — which are simple and inexpensive to make — could be used to create tiny valves, positioners, pumps, stirrers, and flagella for use in drug discovery, precision assembly and perhaps even to propel tiny objects inside the bloodstream.”

Nanobot could be fitted with tiny fins or tails that would then allow them to rotate and flow through a patient’s blood stream. What could this mean for the man or woman on the street? Well, the nanobots could theoretically travel through the body delivering drugs to parts of the body, fighting parasites, and performing micro-surgery on cancer cells.

Click here to see a video of the nanobots and artificial muscles in action.

+ University of British Columbia

Via Toronto Sun