Research highlight

Technology: Soft robots catch more flies with magnets

Communications Materials

September 25, 2020

A new type of fast-acting, soft-bodied robot is described in a paper published in Communications Materials. This robot can be engineered to walk, swim, levitate and close itself around a living fly before it takes off.

Acting at high speed is essential to creatures in nature for preying, fleeing and flying. High speed is just as desirable for soft robotics, as it enables gripping of fast-moving objects and quickly responding to dynamic surroundings. However, replicating such fast movements in robots is extremely challenging. Electric motors can mimic this behaviour in ‘hard-bodied’ robots, but it has yet to be achieved using cheap and simple robotic systems made from materials such as plastics or rubber.

Denys Makarov and colleagues present design principles, materials and fabrication processes for magnetically driven high-speed soft robots. Tiny magnets embedded in these robots respond rapidly to magnetic fields, allowing the robots to move according to their specific shape. This design achieved the highest yet reported specific energy density for a soft robot, which is crucial for high-speed actuation at low magnetic fields.

Denys Makarov and colleagues present design principles, materials and fabrication processes for magnetically driven high-speed soft robots. Tiny magnets embedded in these robots respond rapidly to magnetic fields, allowing the robots to move according to their specific shape. This design achieved the highest yet reported specific energy density for a soft robot, which is crucial for high-speed actuation at low magnetic fields.

doi: 10.1038/s43246-020-00067-1

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