Theoretical analysis of powering nanorobots with blood glucose and oxygen

Robert A. Freitas Jr., winner of the 2009 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theory and the 2007 Foresight Institute Prize in Communication sends this announcement that a major theoretical study of how to power medical nanorobots is available:

Tad Hogg and I published a major paper on powering medical nanorobots earlier this year, which is now available online at:

Tad Hogg, Robert A. Freitas Jr.,”Chemical Power for Microscopic Robots in Capillaries,” Nanomedicine: Nanotech. Biol. Med. 6(April 2010):298-317. [PDF]

This paper represents the first detailed theoretical study of the actual power limitations of oxygen/glucose-powered in vivo medical nanorobots in human tissue capillaries. We look at nanorobots that are positioned in single or multiple circumferential rings along the interior surface of capillary blood vessels.

My personal web page is at Tad’s web page is at

ABSTRACT. The power available to microscopic robots (nanorobots) that oxidize bloodstream glucose while aggregated in circumferential rings on capillary walls is evaluated with a numerical model using axial symmetry and time-averaged release of oxygen from passing red blood cells. Robots about 1 µm in size can produce up to several tens of picowatts, in steady state, if they fully use oxygen reaching their surface from the blood plasma. Robots with pumps and tanks for onboard oxygen storage could collect oxygen to support burst power demands two to three orders of magnitude larger. We evaluate effects of oxygen depletion and local heating on surrounding tissue. These results give the power constraints when robots rely entirely on ambient available oxygen and identify aspects of the robot design significantly affecting available power. More generally, our numerical model provides an approach to evaluating robot design choices for nanomedicine treatments in and near capillaries.

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