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MIT Researchers Have Developed A Soft & Flexible Robot Made Of Hydrogel

A team of researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created transparent robots, this flexible robot move when water is pumped in and out of them. The robot perform a various forceful, and fast tasks, including grabbing a ball underwater, and kicking and releasing a live fish.

This gel-based robots are made of hydrogel — a rubbery, tough, nearly transparent material that is composed mostly of water. Each one is an assemblage of hollow, and precisely designed hydrogel structures, as well as connected to rubbery tubes. When the researchers pump water into the gel-based robots, the structures quickly inflate in orientations that enable the bots to curl up or stretch out.

Gel robot

To confirm that the breakthrough works, the engineers devised an unusual experiment: namely, catch-and-release fishing. The robot hand could quickly close around a fish without damaging it, let it go just as easily. The underwater experiment showed that a robot takes on the acoustic and visual properties of its environment, and helping it blend in where virtually any other bot would stand out.

Usually, hydrogels are too flimsy to move with any sort of force or speed without falling apart. Because it made of silicones — and silicones are easy to see. That’s why a researcher figured out a new formulation of chemicals that, when cured along with UV light, make much tougher, but still flexible, and hydrogel robots.

Of course, the technology is not going to be limited to fishing expeditions. MIT envisions it being amazing help for surgical robots which could poke around in the body without hurting your tissues and organs. Engineering team even need to spend more time customizing and refining their robotics to make that happen, but there could well be a time when robots can take over even the most delicate operations.

‘Hydrogels are wet, soft, and biocompatible, can form more friendly interfaces with human organs,’ says Xuanhe Zhao lead researcher.