Robots activated by water may be the next frontier

phys.org | 3/18/2019 | Staff
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New research from the laboratory of Ozgur Sahin, associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia University, shows that materials can be fabricated to create soft actuators—devices that convert energy into physical motion—that are strong and flexible, and, most important, resistant to water damage.

"There's a growing trend of making anything we interact with and touch from materials that are dynamic and responsive to the environment," Sahin says. "We found a way to develop a material that is water-resistant yet, at the same time, equipped to harness water to deliver the force and motion needed to actuate mechanical systems."

Research - Online - May - Advanced - Materials

The research was published online May 21 in Advanced Materials Technologies.

Most traditional robotic systems are hard, that is, composed of metallic structures that require a computer to function. Soft robots are created with materials that don't use a rigid skeleton or electricity to provide mechanical strength. They are simpler to make and less expensive than hard robots, more capable of complex motions and safer to use around humans.

Material - Columbia - Researchers - Combination - Spores—units

The material developed by the Columbia researchers is made of a novel combination of spores—units produced by bacteria that are often used as food supplements—and adhesives. They provide an alternative to materials, such as synthetic polymers, commonly used in hard actuators and are better than the gels more generally used in soft actuators. Compared to the new material, gels are slower to respond, cannot generate high power or force and usually fail in direct contact with water.

Although the individual spores are water-resistant, they are so tiny that they must be bound together via a photochemical process in which high-intensity light instantly glues...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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