'Robot Sperm' Slow but Accurate

Tiny robots could be used for IVF, researchers say

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 3, 2014 5:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – Technophobes may be alarmed to learn that new sperm-like robots could soon be performing many activities—including fertilizing human eggs. Researchers say the tiny bots, dubbed "MagnetoSperm," were inspired by the shape and movement of sperm cells and can "swim" to their target with incredible accuracy, LiveScience reports. They believe the sperm bots could be useful in nanomanufacturing as well as for medical uses including unclogging arteries, drug administration, and in vitro fertilization.

The robots have a metal head and a body of flexible polymer, and are steered through a field produced by electromagnetic coils. "The magnetic head is used to orient it in a certain direction and then, just by flapping its tail, it starts to move forward," the lead researcher explains to the BBC. "The flapping happens because we change the current in the coils," he says, predicting that the tiny bots will prove useful where it is necessary to reach "precise locations." The bots are still a lot slower—and around six times bigger—than human sperm, but the MagnetoSperm team says it is working on creating smaller, faster versions. (Meanwhile, scientists have recently found the world's oldest sperm.)

The sperm bots "swam" toward their targets with the use of magnetic steering.   (University of Twente)
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