When 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)
Many people won’t look beyond jewelry and coinage for the most important usage of precious metals, but chemical engineers know that precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium have many more valuable uses.
Solar and other fuel cells, batteries, electronics, drugs, after shaves, bandages and even traditional photography have some reliance on precious metals.
Of particular interest to chemical engineers are their uses as chemical catalysts. But, being precious, chemical reactions that require large volumes of the metals are naturally going to be expensive and unsustainable.
One of the solutions is to use computational modeling below the nanoscale level to design more efficient and affordable catalysts from gold. And a transatlantic alliance of three universities have collaborated to achieve just that.
Continue reading A precious catalyst (Day 210)
Academics reading this blog will know that the word ‘novel’ can be found in many pieces of published research.
It is always a brave call to use the word, and sometimes it might be better to be more cautious like ancient scholars who coined the phrase: ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.
I read an interesting story recently about medical implants and it sent my mind scurrying back in time to find out when mankind first started using ‘implants’.
The earliest trace I could find was an Ancient Egyptian called Hesi-Ra – one of the world’s first dentists, who lived around 2686 to 2613 BC.
Continue reading The dissolving implants (Day 158)