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Dr. David Zarrouk, director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Bio-Inspired and Medical Robotics Lab and a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has a laboratory that is reminiscent of something out of the Mr. Potato Head universe. File cabinets and drawers are stuffed with various bits and pieces of robots. Spools of different-color wires rest on shelves. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the professor was building toys.
Dr. David Zarrouk uses nature as an inspiration to develop robots.
But no, this isn’t Santa’s workshop. For now, he’s completely satisfied inventing life-saving machines.
He’s created robots that can climb stairs and crawl under doors. With built-in cameras on them, the robots can be used in search and rescue missions to find, for example, trapped survivors after an earthquake.
But on a recent spring morning on the campus of Ben-Gurion U, Dr. Zarrouk has another kind of robot on his mind: a robot so small it can crawl into your body.
The tiny robot is equipped with a camera. Using a joystick, the doctor can quickly guide the robot to the exact part of the body he’s interested in viewing. The robot can even stop what it’s doing and take a biopsy.
There are all sorts of applications for this invention – tumor treatment, drug delivery, cardiovascular maintenance, and endoscopies, just to name a few.
Dr. Zarrouk and his team are not the only ones working on such a robot, but Ben-Gurion U’s version is unique in that it is inspired by nature. They’ve turned to the inchworm as their muse. Their robot only contains a single tiny motor. “When you have one motor, things are smaller and more energy efficient,” Dr. Zarrouk says. “This is like 300 times more efficient than the second best.”