Dental Micro-bots Compete in the 2020 STAT Madness Tournament

Dental Micro-bots Compete in the 2020 STAT Madness Tournament

A magnetic micro-robot drives in a circle, leaving a clean path on a biofilm.
The robots’ movement is directed by magnets. The researchers envision a variety of applications for the technology, from cleaning teeth to water pipes to catheters. (Video: Geelsu Hwang and Edward Steager)

Last year, a team of Penn engineers, dentists, and biologists developed a microscopic robotic cleaning crew. With two types of robotic systems — one designed to work on surfaces and the other to operate inside confined spaces — the scientists showed that robots with catalytic activity could ably destroy biofilms, sticky amalgamations of bacteria enmeshed in a protective scaffolding. Such robotic biofilm-removal systems could be valuable in a wide range of potential applications, from keeping water pipes and catheters clean to reducing the risk of tooth decay, endodontic infections, and implant contamination.

Now, those micro-robots are competing in STAT Magazine’s annual STAT Madness Tournament, where the best biomedical breakthroughs of the previous year are seeded in a bracket-style competition, with each matchup decided by popular vote.

Voting for the first round of matchups starts today.