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Scientists develop robots that can change shape

| 22.3.22 |
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Scientists develop robots that can change shape

 Until now, what comes to your mind when you imagine a robot? Advanced? Big size? Or maybe someone answered that the robot was stiff. Over time, innovations and increasingly sophisticated technological developments can change your perception of robots in the future. Reporting from Techxplore, physicists have found a way to coat a soft robot with a new material. The material allows the soft robot to move and function in a more targeted way. 

Research on this innovation was led by the University of Bath in the UK and was published on the Science Advances website under the title "Active elastocapillarity in soft solids with negative surface tension" on March 11, 2022. The researchers involved believe their breakthrough in "active matter" could revolutionize robot design over the years. This method can also be developed in the future to determine the shape, movement and behavior of soft solids. Not because of its natural elasticity but by activities that are completely controlled by humans. It is modeled on a rubber ball coated in a nano-sized robot. The robots are programmed to work simultaneously and can transform the ball into a new shape other than its original shape.

It is hoped that the active material will give birth to a new generation of fully functional machines. Instead of being governed by a centralized control system like most robots today, the new machine will be made up of many active individual units. They work together to determine the movement and function of machines so they are similar to how our biological tissues, such as the fibers in heart muscle, work. Using this idea, scientists have the opportunity to build a soft machine with arms made of flexible materials. Powered by robots embedded beneath the surface. Not only that, the innovation also allows robots to be used to change the size and shape of drug capsules. 

This is done by coating the surface with nanoparticles made of responsive active ingredients and is expected to have a dramatic effect on how drugs interact with cells in the body. Working on active matter challenges the assumption that the surface energy of a soft liquid or solid must always be positive. Because a certain amount of energy is always required to create a surface.
Active matter allows us to see well-known rules of nature, rules like the fact that surface tension must be positive. Seeing what happens if we violate these rules and how we can take advantage of the results is an interesting thing to study," said Dr. Jack Binysh, the study's first author. "This study is an important proof of concept and has many useful implications. For example, future technology could produce soft robots that are much slicker and better at picking up and manipulating soft materials," added Dr. Anton Souslov who was also involved in this research. 

In their study, the researchers developed theories and simulations that describe 3D soft solids whose surfaces are subjected to active stress. They found that this active pressure expands the surface of the material, pulling the solids beneath it together and causing an overall deformation. Scientists discovered that the exact shape adopted by solids can be adjusted by changing the elastic properties of the material. Further research will apply the general principles that have been discovered by them to design certain robots, such as soft arms or materials that can swim on their own. They will also look at the collective behavior of what would happen if you had a lot of active solids packed together.


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