MIT Develops a Magnetic Hypospray for Needleless Shots
By Kevin Lee
Out of all the technologies from Star Trek that I wanted to become a reality, the one I wanted the most was the Hypospray. I mean, who wouldn’t prefer being injected with an aerosol spray instead of being archaically stabbed with a piece of metal, hoping that it hit a vein.
Needleless, air-based injections have been around in some form for quite a while now, but most of them require compressed air or air canisters to deliver medicine. But MIT researchers have developed a new kind of Lorentz-force actuator injection system that uses magnetic energy to deliver a shot.
The mechanics behind the actuator involve a powerful magnet surrounded by a coil of wire that’s also attached to a piston inside the drug ampoule (usually a small vial container). When an electrical current is applied, the magnetic field pushes the piston forward, causing the drug to eject forward as a jet of liquid.
The stream of medicine shoots out at high pressure–100 megapascals–and at a velocity of 314 meters per second (1,030 feet per second). For reference, the speed of sound is 326 meters per second (1,126 feet per second). So yeah, it’s fast.
MIT’s device achieves this by forcing the drug out of a nozzle that is just as wide as a mosquito proboscis (what a mosquito uses to pierce the skin and suck blood). But don’t think this method is all about brute force, because with a Lorentz-force actuator, doctors can actually control the injection as it happens to deliver a drug to whatever depth they desire.
With a high-pressure shot, the drug has enough energy to breach the patient’s skin and make it down to their bloodstream. However if the doctor alters the current to lower the pressure, an injection can be delivered in a steady stream to the patient’s bloodstream and surrounding tissue.
The obvious advantages of MIT’s system are needleless injections that hurt a lot less and avoid injuring the patient. The engineers behind the project say that it could also be used to pioneer new types of treatment. The team has already begun testing the system’s ability to deliver medicine directly to a person’s retina though their eye and through the ear to treat their inner ear.