Making squishy robots (Day 348)

green robotsWhen I think of ways to describe robots I might use words like advanced, intelligent, practical, metallic… but never squishy!

However, today’s story comes from a team of chemical engineers who are working to create squishy robots by designing a synthetic gel.

The team, from the University of Pittsburgh‘s Swanson School of Engineering, US, have developed a computational model which has allowed them to design a new material. The material has the ability reconfigure its shape and move using its own internally generated power. This ability to change was seen as a catalyst for the development of a soft robot.

This research, undertaken by Dr Anna C. Balazs, Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Dr Olga Kuksenok, Research Associate Professor, uses a single-celled organism, Euglena mutabilis, as a model. E. mutabilis is able to process energy to expand and contract its shape. This results in movement.

Continue reading Making squishy robots (Day 348)

Robots smaller than a grain of sand (Day 173)

Robby the Robot. Picture:  S Bukley Shutterstock.comThose of you with long memories will remember a classic space movie from 1956 called Forbidden Planet. The film (and subsequent cult stage play) features an unusual cinema icon – Robby the Robot.

Full of personality, Robby clanked his way around the film and has been doing so ever since in film and TV cameos up to the present day.

Robby has helped to set an image of our mechanical friends that lingers today, but in reality the world of robotics is much more diverse, and can even appear stranger than fiction itself.

One of the latest robotics projects involving chemical engineers is work being undertaken at the University of Michigan. They are attempting to create robots smaller than a grain of sand and have already shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in tiny machines.

Continue reading Robots smaller than a grain of sand (Day 173)