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Microrobots are recognized as transformative solutions for drug delivery systems (DDSs) because they can navigate through the body to specific locations and enable targeted drug release. However, their realization is substantially limited by insufficient payload capacity, unavoidable drug leakage/deactivation, and strict modification/stability criteria for drugs. Natural puffballs possess fascinating features that are highly desirable for DDSs, including a large fruitbody for storing spores, a flexible protective cap, and environmentally triggered release mechanisms. This report presents a puffball-inspired microrobotic system which incorporates an internal chamber for loading large drug quantities and spatial drug separation, and a near-infrared-responsive top-sealing layer offering strong drug protection and on-demand release. These puffball-inspired microrobots (PIMs) display tunable loading capacities up to high concentrations and enhanced drug protection with minimal drug leakage. Upon near-infrared laser irradiation, on-demand drug delivery with rapid release efficiency is achieved. The PIMs also demonstrate translational motion velocities, switchable motion modes, and precise locomotion under a rotating magnetic field. This work provides strong proof-of-concept for a DDS that combines the superior locomotion capability of microrobots with the unique characteristics of puffballs, thereby illustrating a versatile avenue for development of a new generation of microrobots for targeted drug delivery.

Original publication




Journal article


Adv Mater

Publication Date





bioinspired systems, controlled release, intelligent microrobots, magnetic actuation, targeted therapy, Drug Delivery Systems, Drug Liberation, Phototherapy, Infrared Rays, Locomotion