This Invisible Robot Can Grab And Release Fish

Posted: Feb 2 2017, 8:51am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

This Invisible Robot can Grab and Release Fish
  • MIT Build Invisible Hydrogel Robots That can Grab and Release Fish
 

A see-through gel bot was able to capture and set fish free in an aquarium setting. This proves the power of science to create marvelous inventions that defy the imagination.

The experts and technicians at MIT managed to create a translucent gel robot that was tiny in size and able to travel in an aquatic environment. It undergoes locomotion via having the water pumped through it.

This smart device can perform a range of functions including pouncing on a live goldfish and capturing it. It can also hit a ball some distance underwater. 

The bots are manufactured from hydrogel. This is a tenacious, gum-like, almost transparent material that is mainly just made up of plain water. Hollow hydrogel compartments compose the major portions of this robot.

These have rubber tubes linked with them. When water enters these structures, the appendages release or catch an object underwater. Many such prototypical hydrogel robots were made by the scientists at MIT.

One of them could capture anything small in size via a vice-like gripping structure. Another one made hitting motions and could kick a small ball. There was even one with a fin-like structure and it flapped back and forth. 

“Hydrogels are soft, wet, biocompatible, and can form more friendly interfaces with human organs,” says Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT. Photo: Hyunwoo Yuk/MIT Soft Active Materials Lab

Since a major part of these bots was just plain old water, they had properties which resembled water. The robots were for all purposes invisible since they blended in with the underwater environment.

Such hydrogel robots have myriads of applications in medicine. They are squishy, liquid-like and very close to their biological counterparts.

Especially in case of human organs, they can literally meld in with remarkable ease and efficiency. The future of such devices is unlimited in scope. Hydrogel hands could be the order of the day in the times which are yet to come. 

The deft and delicate maneuvers used in surgery can be handled by such hydrogel hands. Hydrogels have many recipes. They can be made by mixing polymers with water.

The elastic and resilient materials that are commonly the result of this mixture prove to be a big boon in various fields of endeavor. Such hydrogels can also stick to surfaces made of glass, metal, ceramic and rubber.

To separate them from the bonds they form with the surfaces is nearly impossible. Thus we now have the brand new world of soft robotics. The problem with the robots of the past was that they were brittle and rigid thus cracking under the least pressure.

With hydrogel bots such is hardly the case. They operate via osmosis. As the experiment proved, a series of finger-like appendages grabbed a goldfish in a tank and then released it. This has never been attempted before by a robot.  

The findings of this study got published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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