A “smart”, 3D-printed jell-material that can “walk” on the bottom, grab objects and move them, developed engineers at Rutgers University – New Brunswick.
This material could be used on robots that mimic marine beings like the octopus, which can also walk to the bottom and touch objects without causing them damage. It could also be used to create artificial organs such as hearts, stomachs and other muscles, as well as devices for disease diagnosis, drug delivery, underwater controls, and more.
Soft materials such as this “smart” jell are flexible, often cheaper to manufacture than hard one and can be used on a microscale. Also, the devices made of them are easier to design and control than other, more complex machines.
“3D printed intelligent jell have tremendous potential in biomedical engineering because it looks like tissues in the human body that also contain plenty of water and are so soft”,
said Haouon Lee, senior author of a new study and associate professor at the Department of Mechanics and Aerospace at the University.
“It can be used for many different kinds of submarine devices that mimic marine creatures such as octopus”,
The study, published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, focuses on a 3D-printed hydrogel that moves and changes shape when powered by electricity. Hydrogels, which remain solid in excess of 70% and still contain water, are found in the human body, in diapers, in contact lenses and in many other things.
During the 3D printing process, light is projected into a photosensitive jell solution. The hydrogel is placed in a saline water solution (electrolyte) and two thin cables feed electricity to cause movement: Forward, reversing, gripping and moving objects. The humanoid robot created by the team is about one inch high.
The velocity of the jell movement is controlled by changing its dimensions (the thinner is faster than the thicker) and the jell bends or changes shape depending on the strength of the saline water solution and the electric field. The jell refers to muscles that contract because it is made of soft material, has more than 70% water and reacts to electrical stimulation, as Lee notes.