Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 165-178

First online:

MRI driven magnetic microswimmers

  • Gábor KósaAffiliated withSchool of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University Email author 
  • , Péter JakabAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
  • , Gábor SzékelyAffiliated withDepartment of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, ETH Zurich
  • , Nobuhiko HataAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School

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Capsule endoscopy is a promising technique for diagnosing diseases in the digestive system. Here we design and characterize a miniature swimming mechanism that uses the magnetic fields of the MRI for both propulsion and wireless powering of the capsule. Our method uses both the static and the radio frequency (RF) magnetic fields inherently available in MRI to generate a propulsive force. Our study focuses on the evaluation of the propulsive force for different swimming tails and experimental estimation of the parameters that influence its magnitude. We have found that an approximately 20 mm long, 5 mm wide swimming tail is capable of producing 0.21 mN propulsive force in water when driven by a 20 Hz signal providing 0.85 mW power and the tail located within the homogeneous field of a 3 T MRI scanner. We also analyze the parallel operation of the swimming mechanism and the scanner imaging. We characterize the size of artifacts caused by the propulsion system. We show that while the magnetic micro swimmer is propelling the capsule endoscope, the operator can locate the capsule on the image of an interventional scene without being obscured by significant artifacts. Although this swimming method does not scale down favorably, the high magnetic field of the MRI allows self propulsion speed on the order of several millimeter per second and can propel an endoscopic capsule in the stomach.


Capsule endoscopy MRI Propulsion Microrobot Magnetic actuator