Tiny robotic tentacles that can handle delicate, small objects are described in Scientific Reports this week. Such soft robotics may be ideal for biomedical applications or surgery where protecting tissue is of high importance.
Soft-robots, inspired by biological systems such as tentacles, hold great promise for safe grabbing and holding of fragile objects but their miniaturization for small-scale applications has been challenging. Previous attempts have only reproduced the life-like, multi-turn spiralling motion of tentacles at the centimetre-scale, but Jaeyoun Kim and colleagues have developed a new method for producing micro-scale robotic tentacles. The tentacles are capable of wrapping around tiny objects without damaging them, such as eggs of the small fish capelin (Mallotus villosus), which deform and burst easily when handled by hard tweezers. The authors also use the tentacle to pick up and hold an ant (approximately 400 micrometres across the waist) without damaging its body.
A combination of the spiral motion and low force exerted by this micro-tentacle make it ideal for microsurgery, such as endovascular operations ? a minimally invasive procedure that accesses the target for surgery via the blood vessels, the authors propose.