Smart materials: Medical applications

Medicine is a big area expected to drive the use of animate materials.

Longer-term, microscopic machines could be injected into the bloodstream to make small incisions, repair damage, or sense and collect data. These mini-robots could be propelled by tiny motors, powered by chemical reactions.

They could deliver drugs to specific locations in the body, such as a tumor. This would potentially avoid the damage to the rest of the body that can occur with current forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

But there could also be uses for people who are recovering from injury or surgery.

Professor Mark Miodownik said, “With wearable tech, you could have sensors in the garment. If you were recovering from shoulder surgery, for example, these sensors could communicate how much shoulder movement you have to you and your doctor.”

In the future, these materials, and the systems they are part of, may be able to operate without human intervention.

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