Liquid Microbot Splits Into Pieces, Reassembles
The world of robots as we know it is developing far beyond our imagined humanoid forms, with advances in magnetic and liquid designs bringing novel kinds of robots into the market that are making waves in the biomedical field.
The latest offering to the soft robot market comes from a team of researchers from Soochow University in Taiwan, Harbin Institute of Technology in China, and Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, and is a liquid microbot that can split into small pieces to fit through narrow spaces and reassemble itself on the other side.
The microbot is made out of magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles which the team then suspended in oil, giving it a loose structure that makes it easy to disassemble and re-form. External magnets were used to control the device’s movements and navigate it through spaces, with the team demonstrating the method’s efficacy in moving the robot through a maze and around obstacles, as well as breaking it into smaller pieces when necessary.
The design is scalable, with potential use cases in various medical applications for non-invasive surgery and drug delivery, as well as chemical processes such as virus detection. Designs in magnetic soft robotics have been taking off in recent years due to their potentially game-changing abilities in the biomedical sector, with researchers honing in designs to create increasingly safe and easy-to-use robotic devices.
Earlier this year, a team from the Chinese University of Hong Kong created a magnetic slime robot, while engineers from Hong Kong University (HKU) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developed what they dubbed “Aquabot”, made using a liquid 3D printing method.