HARVARD University researchers have invented a small and squishy “octobot”. It is the first robot made completely from soft parts and doesn’t need batteries or wires of any kind, and runs on a liquid fuel.
The octopus-like robot is made of silicone rubber, and measures about 6.5cm long. The researchers say soft robots can adapt more easily to some environments than rigid machines, and this research could lead to autonomous robots that can sense their surroundings and interact with people.
Conventional robots are typically made from rigid parts, which makes them vulnerable to harm from bumps, scrapes, twists and falls. These hard parts can also hinder them from being able to squirm past obstacles.
The octobot has eight arms that are pneumatically driven by steady streams of oxygen gas. This gas is given off by liquid hydrogen peroxide fuel after it chemically reacts with platinum catalysts.
The robot is controlled using tiny 3D-printed networks of plumbing. Whereas conventional microelectronic circuits shuffle electrons around wires, scientists in recent years have begun developing microfluidic circuitry that can shuffle fluids around pipes. These devices can theoretically perform any operation a regular electronic microchip can, previous research suggested.
The octobot’s microfluidic controller is filled with the liquid hydrogen peroxide fuel. As the fuel gives off oxygen, pressure from the gas builds up in the controller and eventually causes some valves to open and others to close, inflating chambers in half the robot’s arms and forcing them to move. Pressurised gas then builds up once more, triggering valve openings and closures that make the other robot’s arms move.
So far, the octobot can only wave its arms. The scientists are now working on developing completely soft machines that are more complex and can propel themselves.
We had “Paul The Octopus” and now we have “Harvard The Octobot”. Can’t wait to see if it will be ready by 2018 FIFA World Cup 🙂 *kidding*
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Image 02 Designed by WYSS Institute / www.wyss.harvard.edu