A team of engineers was recently successful in developing a completely transparent, gel-based robots that are capable of moving when water is pumped through them. These robots are capable of performing numerous actions that include rapid forceful actions, along with, kicking balls underwater and catching and releasing alive fishes. The body of these robots is an assembly of hollow and very precisely designed hydrogel kind of structures that are connected to each other via rubber tubes. When water was pumped in these hydrogel robots, these structures inflated instantly in orientations that allowed the robots to stretch out as well as curl up.
The team was able to design several hydrogel robots like a fin like structure that can flap back and forth or an appendage that can kick or a soft hand like robot that an relax and squeeze at the same time. As these robots are made and powered by just water, these have identical acoustic and visual properties of water. The team proposes that if these robots are to be designed for underwater applications, completely invisible robots can be attained in no time. The team was led by an associate professor of mechanical engineering as well as civil and environmental engineering at the MIT, Xuanhe Zhao. He worked in association with a graduate student, Hyunwoo Yuk who is now working on medical application of these hydrogel robots.
Zhao adds, “Hydrogels are soft, wet, biocompatible, and can form more friendly interfaces with human organs. We are actively collaborating with medical groups to translate this system into soft manipulators such as hydrogel ‘hands,’ which could potentially apply more gentle manipulations to tissues and organs in surgical operations.” The results of this research were recently published by the team in some known journals like Nature Communications.
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