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Ultra-fast bio-inspired soft robots – the future of drug delivery and non-invasive surgery?

16 September 2022

Do the Locomotion

For some creatures, speed is everything. Catching prey or avoiding being prey fuels an evolutionary race in nature’s greatest runners – and mimicking their sprints might be a weapon against disease. These tiny running soft robots are made from 3D printed elastic polymer embedded with metal wires. They bend and stretch due to electromotive forces caused by changes in current piped in from outside – giving this jolly arch a gait similar to a cheetah (arguably its locomotion is even faster when measured in body lengths per second). Robots can be fitted with different feet for different surfaces (later in the video) or even swim. These examples are tethered to an eternal power supply, but work is underway on a free-roaming version, currently about as fast as a centipede. Researchers hope similar robots can help to deliver drugs inside humans, possibly dashing towards a finish line somewhere in our intestines.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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