Micro-robots take off as ARC announces funding

Micro-robots that can 'swim' through the vascular and digestive systems of the human body to perform medical tasks via remote control and, in many cases, avoid invasive major surgery, are being developed at Monash University following today's announcement that the project has been funded through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects scheme.

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop today announced the recipients of funding through the Australian Research Council's two major schemes - Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects.

Monash University was awarded more than $17.5 million to pursue 52 Discovery projects, and a further $4,685,524 from the ARC plus $10,366,752 from partner organisations to pursue 18 Linkage projects - where the university collaborates on research with industry.

It was also awarded seven Australian Postdoctoral Fellowships, three Australian Research Fellowships, one Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship and one Australian Professorial Fellowship.

Other Discovery projects being pursued at Monash include an examination of the impact of US foreign policy on nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, understanding the intense small-scale cyclones of the Australian and Antarctic regions, and how genetics influences how plants are constructed.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Edwina Cornish said the ARC funding announced today would support a broad range of projects that underpin the future competitiveness of the Australian economy.

Dr James Friend, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and lead investigator on the micro-robot project, said the research would initially seek to understand the mechanics of high-power rotary micro-motors. "In this study we aim to provide doctors with a means to avoid major surgery and extend the capabilities of doctors to diagnose and treat patients by using a powerful micro-motor that carries its own power supply and has a special flagellar propeller that allows it to swim within the human body and perform tasks by remote control, mimicking the swimming behaviour of E. coli bacteria." Dr Friend said.

Also in the health area, the university has received funding for a three-year research project led by the Centre for Health Economics that will see the creation, validation and use of a suite of instruments for evaluating the outcomes of health promotional programs, including those for adult and childhood obesity, depression and smoking areas that are recognised as being important to the Australian community.

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