A soft material that heals itself instantaneously is now reality. A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and at Pennsylvania State University tune the nanostructure of a new stretchable material in such a way that it now entirely recovers its structure and properties at the blink of an eye after being cut or poked. The squid-inspired material could revolutionize the research field of soft robotics. Since it can reverse any undergone damage, it makes many real-world applications possible in which robots have to deal with dynamic and unpredictable environments.
With the help of magnetic fields, the bots might one day navigate the circulatory system to target tumors
Drug-carrying microrobots offer a way to deliver treatments straight to where they are needed, such as tumors deep within the body. But most bots designed in labs have so far been limited to easy-to-reach targets such as the gut. Now, researchers have developed drug-delivering “microrollers” that can move against blood flow (Sci. Robot. 2020, DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aba5726). With the help of a magnetic field, these two-faced particles might one day navigate our circulatory system to deliver treatments to tumors. The microrollers are coated on one side with magnetic materials and on the other with antibodies specific to cancer cells. These antibodies would help the particles selectively bind to tumors in the body, where they could release their payload. This targeted approach could minimize exposure of healthy cells to cancer drugs, reducing side effects.
Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. They covered the ball-shaped microroller with a magnetic nanofilm on one side and with anti-cancer drugs on the other. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.
Our Director Metin Sitti hosted an Extreme Mechanical Letters (EML) Webinar with the topic "Soft-bodied Small-Scale Robots". The EML Webinars are a series of very prestigious lectures with many great speakers.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart aim to understand the underlying process of self-assembly. Their findings not only provide valuable insights into fundamental physics, but could enable the design of functional materials or self-assembled miniature robots.
A specific fibril tip shape design is the key to achieving elastic dry fibril adhesives with super liquid repellency. This new bioinspired material opens up many possibilities for use, as it prevents any form of liquid droplet or layer from hindering or degrading its adhesion.
Light-fueled liquid crystal gels used to create robot inspired by aquatic invertebrates
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart in cooperation with Tampere University in Finland developed a gel-like robot inspired by sea slugs and snails they are able to steer with light. Much like the soft body of these aquatic invertebrates, the bioinspired robot is able to deform easily inside water when exposed to this energy source. Due to specifically aligned molecules of liquid crystal gels – its building material – and illumination of specific parts of the robot, it is able to crawl, walk, jump, and swim inside water. The scientists see their research project as an inspiration for other roboticists who struggle to design untethered soft robots that are able to move freely in a fluidic environment. Such inventions could one day play a pivotal role in the research field of minimally-invasive robotic medical applications.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have designed and fabricated an untethered microrobot that can slip along either a flat or curved surface in a liquid when exposed to ultrasound waves. Its propulsion force is two to three orders of magnitude stronger than the propulsion force of natural microorganisms such as bacteria or algae. Additionally, it can transport cargo while swimming. The acoustically propelled robot hence has significant potential to revolutionize the future minimally invasive treatment of patients.
The scientist working in the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart will be supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for two years to continue his soft robotic research in Germany.