Never forget that robots are not only four-legged mechanisms like the SpotMini that can open doors and perform various acrobatic tricks. In addition to them, engineers are also developing mechanisms that, due to their tiny size, can move inside living organisms and deliver drugs to hard-to-reach places. Researchers from the Lausanne Polytechnic School and the Zurich School of Technology have created a robotic microbe that adapts to different types of fluids and can even swim in blood vessels.
The lead author of the project, Selman Sakar, said that when creating the external structure of the robot, they were based on the principles of kirigami – the Japanese art of making figures using paper and scissors. Thanks to its flexible design, the robot is able to move even inside narrow blood vessels without any loss of speed.
Our robot has a special composition and structure that allows it to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid through which it moves. For example, if it is faced with a change in viscosity or concentration of dissolved particles, it changes its shape to maintain speed and maneuverability without losing control over the direction of travel.
The microbe robot is made of a nanocomposite filled with a material with a tightly bound polymer network – this is what gives it its special elasticity. Instead of equipping it with rather large sensors and a battery, the researchers have adopted magnetic nanoparticles that respond to changes in electric fields. This gave them the ability to program the robots to deform.
Many microorganisms have appeared in nature, which change their shape as environmental conditions change. It was this principle that inspired us to develop microrobots.
The researchers emphasized that due to the minimum required components, the production of such robots is very cheap. They intend to constantly improve their design so that they can move in the most difficult fluids.
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