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Novel Lifesaving Magnetic Tentacles

Project description

Medical robots to give surgeons a helping hand

Surgeons often must perform delicate and extremely difficult interventions and face inoperable diseases. Robotic technology may allow them to confront these challenges. The EU-funded NoLiMiTs project will qualify central principles at the intersection between robotics, magnetics, manufacturing and medicine to allow smart tentacle-like robots to improve surgeons’ capabilities. Magnetic tentacle robots are proposed for the first time because they are thin, scalable, smooth and conform to curvilinear trajectories. Thus, surgeons will be able to design personalised tentacles and create them on demand. The project consists of four research targets: robotic architecture and models; intelligence and control; rapid design, simulation and synthesis; and multi-level experimental evaluation. The method will reduce treatment costs and improve public health services.


The aim of this project is to characterize fundamental principles at the intersection of robotics, magnetics, manufacturing and medicine, which will enable intelligent tentacle-like robots to augment the capabilities of surgeons in reaching deep into the human anatomy through complex winding pathways and treat inoperable diseases.
Magnetic tentacle robots, proposed here for the first time, have the potential to be thin, extremely soft and scalable, and to conform to curvilinear trajectories by leveraging magnetic control over their entire length. The surgeon needing to access difficult to reach targets such as peripheral nodules in the lungs, small diseased blood vessels and regions deep inside the brain, will be able to design personalised tentacles and fabricate them on demand.
My world-leading research team in surgical robotics–to be further consolidated by this grant–will define and explore new robotic architectures, as well as the design and fabrication processes integral to this novel concept. Proprioceptive sensing, combined with mathematical models, will enable intelligent robotic control. Robotic assistance will be context dependent, ranging from joystick-based operation to autonomous control along pre-planned trajectories. An integrated design environment will help systematise and streamline implementation.
The research programme consists of four work packages: 1) Robotic architectures and models; 2) Intelligence and control; 3) Rapid design, simulation and synthesis; and 4) Multi-scale experimental evaluation, embracing different scenarios where control over the entire body of the robot is crucial: lung biopsy, cardiovascular interventions and neurosurgery.
This interdisciplinary research will strengthen Europe’s position in medical robotics and improve public health by reducing patient recovery times, complication rates, and treatment costs, and ultimately saving the lives of patients suffering diseases that are inoperable—and often terminal—today.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 698 136,00
LS2 9JT Leeds
United Kingdom

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Yorkshire and the Humber West Yorkshire Leeds
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 698 136,00

Beneficiaries (1)