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