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Technology

Hydrogel robots

Melanie Gonick video reproduction/MIT Robot moves when water is injected insideMelanie Gonick video reproduction/MIT

A team of engineers at the Soft Active Materials Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has fabricated robots made entirely of hydrogel that move in water and can carry out tasks when liquid is pumped into them (Nature Communications, February 1, 2017). When injected with water, the hollow robots inflate and move as they were designed to. By stretching out or curling up, they can, for example, kick a ball or retrieve a live fish inside an aquarium and then let go of it. Composed mostly of water mixed with polymers, hydrogel is a tough, rubbery material that is nearly transparent, although it can be dyed. “Hydrogels are. . .biocompatible and can form more friendly interfaces with human organs,” MIT professor and team leader Xuanhe Zhao said in a press release about the study. “We are actively collaborating with medical groups to translate this system into soft manipulators such as hydrogel ‘hands,’ which could potentially apply more gentle manipulations to tissues and organs in surgical operations.”

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