Robots reconfigured into shapes controlled by light

Scientists in the United States developed a kind of remotely-controlled soft robots that can move to a targeted position and be reconfigured into new shapes, revealing potential applications in biotechnology and aerospace.

Robots reconfigured into shapes controlled by lightThe soft robots shapes made of a polymer embedded with magnetic iron microparticles, and controlled by light and magnetic fields. The researchers used light from a light-emitting diode (LED) to heat up the material that is relatively stiff under normal conditions, and the polymer became pliable.

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Then, they demonstrated that the robot’s shape can be remotely controlled by applying a magnetic field. After the robot took a desired shape, the researchers removed the LED light, and then the robot resumed the original stiffness, locking the shape in place.

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In an experimental test, the researchers used the soft robot as a “grabber” for lifting and transporting objects. Also, it can be folded into “flowers” with petals that bend in different directions.

In addition, the researchers developed a computational model to fine-tune the robot’s shape, polymer thickness, and the size and direction of the required magnetic field, which helps make a prototype design to accomplish a specific task.

Now, they are working to engineer polymers that respond at different temperatures in order to meet the needs of specific applications.

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