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Metal-free motor for use with MRI

Engineers at the Johns Hopkins Urology Robotics Lab have developed a motor without metal or electricity that can safely power remote-controlled robotic surgical tools used for cancer biopsies and therapies guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The motor that drives the devices can be so precisely controlled by computer that movements are steadier and more precise than a human hand.

The motor is constructed of nonmagnetic and dielectric materials such as plastics, ceramics,and rubbers and is electricity-free. It is driven by compressed air and fibre optic technology is used for communications, so that all electric components are located away from the MRI scanner. Six of the motors are used in a surgical robot designed to carry out precise MRI-guided surgical procedures.

“Lots of biopsies on organs such as the prostate are currently performed blind because the tumours are typically invisible to the imaging tools commonly used,” says Dan Stoianovici, an associate professor of urology at Johns Hopkins and director of the robotics lab.