Ocular and Microsurgery Device Controlled by Artificial Muscles

Minimally invasive surgery techniques are less traumatic to the patient. They are significantly less painful, provide less chance of infection, less post-operative services and generally make recovery easier and faster. The breakthrough technologies that make operating procedures more efficient and safer are constantly being modified and improved upon. Electroactive polymers (EAPs) are an emerging class of functional materials that respond to stimulation with specific movement. This attractive characteristic earned them the name artificial muscles and is being applied as the control mechanism for smaller and smaller surgical and medical devices.

Researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory have developed a thin fiber that moves through a two dimensional hemisphere. The fiber is approximately 100 microns wide and is made from a relatively stiff, non-conductive polymeric or glassy material, which may be easily cast in lengths on the multi-centimeter scale. The fiber would be strategically coated in strips with a conductive metal and electroactive polymer. In air, the strips of metal/polymer would be electrically isolated from one another and would not be capable of movement. However, when immersed into a salt solution, electric potential would cause the fiber to move. Through changes in the application of very small voltages, the direction and radius of curvature of the fiber is controlled – making it able to be directed by a medical professional for intraocular, vascular and other very precise surgeries.

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