Bioinspired fluidic sensing and actuating for soft endoscopic robots
Project reference: SIE_21 This project has already been allocated and is no longer available for applications
First supervisor: Hongbin Liu
Second supervisor: Wenfeng Xia
Project summary: Endoscopy has seen its overall demand double in the UK over the last five years. Hospitals will soon be unable to meet the growing demand with existing technology which has not changed fundamentally over the last 60 years. To meet this challenge, we have been dedicating our efforts to investigating new robotic endoscope technologies which enable quick, safe and effective endoscopic procedures in the least invasive way possible. Inspired by nature, we developed a novel ultra-flexible robotic endoscope. It is made of soft material and actuated with biocompatible fluid, and can significantly improve the safety and comfortableness of endoscopy compared to existing solutions. This project aims to develop novel technique to enable real-time sensing of the forces applied to the soft endoscope as well as the shape of the endoscope precisely, providing clinicians vital information to enhance safety and efficiency of endoscopic procedures.
Project description: Endoscopy has seen its overall demand double in the UK over the last five years. Hospitals will soon be unable to meet the growing demand with existing technology which has not changed fundamentally over the last 60 years. To meet this challenge, we have been dedicating our efforts to create new robotic endoscope technology to carry out endoscopic procedure safely and effectively in the least invasive way possible. Our lab developed a soft robotic colonoscope, MorphGI, which is an ultra-flexible colonoscope. It can be guided through the colon safely with minimal effort from the clinician and is capable of completing a safe and painless procedure. This system has significant advantages over existing solutions in terms of cost effectiveness, robustness and procedure time and is the first device which can self-propel in torturous, compliant and not entirely cleaned digestive tract.
This project aims to develop a novel technique to enable real-time sensing of the forces applied to the MorphGI as well as its shape precisely. Since MorphGI endoscope is made of soft material and actuated by hydraulic fluid, the focus of the research is on how to use the actuation fluid as the sensing medium to achieve the above goal without invading the ultra flexibility of the device. Studies will be carried out to explore how to design and model the actuation channels in order to use the hydraulic actuation forces to intrinsically detect and estimate static contact forces with the environment. Furthermore, research will be carried out to understand how hydraulic actuation forces and volumetric flow can be used to detect and estimate the changes in the endoscope shape due to external forces. Activities including design of actuation chamber, soft material modelling in combination with fluid mechanics, dynamics will be investigated to gain theoretical understanding of above question. Finite Element Modelling and other analytical methods will be considered. Innovate fluid sensing mechanism, such as using conductive fluid, and new fabrication methods will be investigated to advance technology frontier of this field.
The sensing technology to be developed from this project is applicable to numerous endoscopic procedures ranging from gastroenterology to airway management. It will be evaluated by the leading clinicians from Guys St Thomas Hospitals and King’s College Hospitals.