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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK


Revolutionary robo-worm

Scientists hope worm could be used to inspect and repair blood vessels

By Tristan Chytroschek of BBC Science at the Hanover Trade fair

The smallest artificial worm in the world has been unveiled by scientists in Germany.

It is designed for cleaning small pipes or even as a surgical tool to be sent through the veins and arteries of the human body.

The artificial worm may be thinner than a match and about half as long, but it is one of the biggest engineering achievements of recent years.

As with many clever inventions, the artificial worm was inspired by nature.

Inspired by the snail

Researchers at the Technical University of Ilmenau in Germany had the movements of snails in mind when they developed their tiny robot crawler.

The device consists of three individual segments and just like a snail, it moves forward by pushing or pulling one section at a time.

But unlike a snail, the robot worm can crawl forwards and backwards.

Thanks to its clever propulsion system, scientists hope it could be used to inspect and repair complicated systems of tubes such as blood vessels in the human body.

The worm could also be fitted with a microscopic camera and might even be used for heart operations removing the need for major surgery.

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