Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Amazing Montemagno

carloI've written about UCLA's Carlo Montemago here, and he continues to amaze.

At right is a picture I took (all rights reserved, etc., etc.) of Montemagno giving his Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology acceptance speech at a conference last October. Now, Montemagno has made a microrobot move by muscle power. According to the New Scientist:

    Whatever the ultimate applications of the technology, no one was more surprised to see the tiny musclebots finally move than Carlo Montemagno, the microengineer whose team is developing them at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has spent three disappointing years trying, and failing, to harness living muscle tissue to propel a micromachine. But when he and his team looked into their microscopes, they were amazed to see the latest version of their musclebot crawling around.

    Montemagno now wants to use the technology to help people who have damaged phrenic nerves. These stimulate the diaphragm to make us breathe and damage means patients often need ventilators instead. Rather than moving the legs of a musclebot, the muscle fibres would flex a piece of piezoelectric material and generate a few millivolts to stimulate the phrenic nerve. Using cells from the patient's own heart would prevent rejection of the implant, and the muscle could be powered by blood glucose.

    Montemagno's initial brief from NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts was to design a muscle-powered micromachine that could seek and repair micrometeorite punctures on spacecraft.


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