Dec 10, 2020

Tiny water-based robot is powered by light and can walk, move cargo and even dance

Posted by in categories: chemistry, robotics/AI

A new robot created by researchers at Northwestern University looks and behaves like a tiny aquatic animal, and could serve a variety of functions, including moving things place to place, catalyzing chemical reactions, delivering therapeutics and much more. This new soft robot honestly looks a heck of a lot like a lemon peel, but it’s actually a material made up of 90% water for the soft exterior, with a nickel skeleton inside that can change its shape in response to outside magnetic fields.

These robots are very small — only around the size of a dime — but they’re able to perform a range of tasks, including walking at the same speed as an average human, and picking up and carrying things. They work by either taking in or expelling water through their soft components, and can respond to light and magnetic fields thanks to their precise molecular design. Essentially, their molecular structure is crafted such that when they’re hit by light, the molecules that make them up expel water, causing the robot’s “legs” to stiffen like muscles.

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