Research highlight

Materials science: Soft robots ? no batteries required


August 25, 2016

A self-powered, octopus-inspired, entirely soft robot is demonstrated in Nature this week. Soft robots are resilient and have the ability to adapt to some natural environments better than conventional robots made of rigid materials. However, the autonomy of soft robots has been limited by the need for hard batteries or wires to fuel the bots, tethering them to a rigid power source.

The new soft robot has eight arms that are pneumatically driven by the release of oxygen gas from a hydrogen peroxide fuel source reacting with carefully placed platinum catalysts, Jennifer Lewis and colleagues report. They created the so-called ‘octobot’ using a combination of methods, including 3D printing of the pneumatic networks within the soft body. The octobot operates for between four and eight minutes, a run-time that could be improved by a more sophisticated design of the components that control how the fuel is used, the authors suggest.

They conclude that the new design and fabrication approach lays the foundation for a new generation of completely soft autonomous robots that are able to perform more complex functions.

doi: 10.1038/nature19100

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