Office for Technology Commercialization

Soft Catheter Surgical Robot for Heart Disease

Technology #20150147

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Image Gallery
Four FREE actuation sections of the catheter robotDiscriminates between plaque and vessel wall; minimal contact force exerted at tip; sensing fibers at tool tip allow real-time identification of tissue in contact with catheter tip
Tim Kowalewski, PhD
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering
External Link (
James Van de Ven
Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
External Link (
Managed By
Kevin Anderson
Technology Licensing Officer 612-624-8293
Patent Protection

US Patent Pending
Serially Actuated Locomotion for Soft Robots in Tube-Like Environments
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Volume: 2, Issue: 2, April 2017

Surgical robot for treating cardiovascular disease (CVD)

A new type of soft surgical robot capable of safely travelling through vasculature offers surgical robotic benefits in treating cardiovascular disease (CVD). The worm-like design is based on fiber-reinforced elastomeric enclosures (FREE). It features hydraulically powered actuators with pressure-threshold valves, offering integrated sensing and precision control at the end-effector. The robot can anchor itself within vasculature using minimal force and will not block blood flow. Combining FREE actuators enables bidirectional traversal, steering and anchoring for interventional procedures by the catheter tip (e.g. atherectomy). The technology can be combined with other tools such as closed-loop laser photoablation and fiber optic tissue sensing to realize safe, closed-loop precision tissue removal in transvascular conditions with semi or fully automated control.

Safely removes plaque

Heart disease remains a leading cause of death, yet no safe, minimally-invasive and lasting clinical intervention currently exists to treat it. Stent usage is declining and proving clinically inferior to invasive bypass surgery. This new, unprecedented design provides an inherently safe method of removing plaque while extending the benefits of surgical robotics into the cardiovascular and transvascular space.

Phase of Development

  • Prototype


  • Safely travels through vasculature
  • New class of minimally-invasive surgical robots


  • Soft catheter surgical robot
  • Controlled biomimetic movement through vasculature
  • Safe, precision removal of plaque
  • Design based on fiber-reinforced elastomeric enclosures (FREE)
  • Hydraulically powered actuators with pressure-threshold valves
  • Integrated sensing
  • Bidirectional traversal, steering and anchoring for interventional procedures (e.g. atherectomy)
  • Safe, closed-loop precision tissue removal with semi or fully automated control


  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Plaque removal
  • Atherosclerosis treatment
  • Stroke treatment
  • Peripheral artery disease treatment
  • Transvascular access procedures
  • Catheter-based intravascular applications
  • Surgical robotics

Interested in Licensing?
The University relies on industry partners to further develop and ultimately commercialize this technology. The license is for the sale, manufacture or use of products claimed by the patents. Please contact Kevin Anderson to share your business needs and licensing and technical interests in this technology.