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Microrobot takes cue from nature

  November 24/December 1, 2008
Make a tiny octopus from the right type of rubber and you have a prototype microrobot that works in watery environments.

The four-legged millimeter-scale device is made of a hydrogel -- a rubber that changes size and shape in response to environmental factors like electric fields, acidity and specific substances. An alternating electric field moves the microrobot's legs in a way that propels it forward.

The microrobot's body can release substances, which means it could be used for medical and biological testing and drug delivery. The body can also be made to signal the presence of specific substances, which makes the microrobot a potential mobile sensor for environmental monitoring.

Research paper:
Biomimetic Soft Multifunctional Miniature Aquabots
Small, published online November 6, 2008

Researchers' homepages:
Intelligent Bio MEMS Laboratory, Korea University
Microtechnology Medicine Biology Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related stories and briefs:
Gel gains life-like motion -- related research

Back to TRN November 24/December 1, 2008

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