Tomorrow's Surgery: Micromotors and Microrobots
Surgical procedures have changed radically over the last few years due to the arrival of new technology. What will technology bring us in the future? This paper examines a few of the forces whose timing are causing new ideas to congeal from the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, micromachining and smart materials. Intelligence systems for autonomous mobile robots can now enable simple insect level behaviors in small amounts of silicon. These software breakthroughs coupled with new techniques for microfabricating miniature sensors and actuators from both silicon and ferroelectric families of materials offer glimpses of the future where robots will be small, cheap and potentially useful to surgeons. In this paper we relate our recent efforts to fabricate piezoelectric micromotors in an effort to develop actuator technologies where brawn matches to the scale of the brain. We discuss our experiments with thin film ferroelectric motors 2mm in diameter and larger 8mm versions machined from bulk ceramic and sketch possible applications in the surgical field.