Scientists from the University of Hong Kong have clearly shown that a robot is not necessarily a complex mechanical device that performs certain actions. In fact, any small object can be turned into a robot by applying a special magnetic coating on it – M-spray, which is a sticky mixture of polyvinyl alcohol, gluten and iron particles.
Due to its adhesive properties, the spray adheres well to smooth and textured surfaces of almost any material. According to project participant Dr. Shen Yajing, the idea of the experiment was to use this magnetic shell to “turn various objects into robots and control their movement.”
The thickness of the M-spray coating is less than a quarter of a millimeter, which made it possible to preserve the shape and size of the original objects – cotton threads, thin films and plastic pipes, which, after being sprayed on them, turned into tiny robots crawling, walking and rolling from place to place.
At the same time, it is worth clarifying – the method of movement is not specified with the application of the coating. The motion algorithm is readjusted to suit the specific conditions by wetting the hardened coating, which again becomes a sticky substance.
In order for the robot to start moving, it is necessary to place it in a strong magnetic field, which will redistribute the magnetic particles inside the coating. As a result, the robot will begin to respond to changes in the field – to perform certain movements, moving in a given direction.
Scientists hope their microbots will find applications in biomedicine, as well as active transport, moving sensors and devices working in confined spaces.