A team of researchers produced the first Octobot, an autonomous robot made out of soft materials. The device was created using soft lithography, molding, and 3D printing.
The Octobot has no circuit board and no battery, being made entirely of materials that are flexible. Its creators believe that their device will help create soft robots that will be able to operate in small spaces.
The material used by researchers is a type of polymer formed from silicone. The device is propelled by a solution of hydrogen peroxide that, when mixed with platinum, ejects gas. The scientists explain that they excluded electrons completely and only used gasses and liquids.
However, the Octobot is not a classical robot using a programmable unit. It relays solely on microfluidics. The paper says that 1 ml of fuel is all the device needs to keep moving through a platinum-infused reservoir for eight minutes.
The work of the Harvard scientists was sponsored through a DARPA Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program. In 2012, the researchers created the first version of the soft robot. A couple of years after, the scientists at Cornell University designed a robotic tentacle including a soft actuator.
However, all the previous devices had to be tethered to external devices in order to obtain power and to be controlled. The improvement is that Octobot is untethered, and it can move autonomously.
The device is an inspiration for other researchers in the field of soft robotics. Even without an internal skeleton, the Octobot proved to be very powerful. It can also travel without any help from the exterior.
All the rigid parts of the device had to be replaced with soft materials, and the Harvard scientists found innovative ways to create the robot.
Some of the tasks that could be performed by soft robots are related to movement in difficult terrain and physical contact with the human body.
The scientific community got very interested in soft robots. For example, in 2012 a Technical Committee on Soft Robotics was established. The technology inspired a character in a Disney movie.
The first soft robot had the name Octopus and its creation was funded by the European Commission. The robot was able to swim and grasp other objects.
Other studies had been done by Japanese scientists, which discovered that the soft robots could be adapted to land and underwater conditions. The Exoskin created by MIT scientists has the ability to sense, react and compute.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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