Will Soft Robot Grippers Perform Surgery Inside Patients One Day?
Meet the tiny robotic starfish that could one day perform remote surgery or deliver drugs deep within the body.
The soft-bodied grippers are made of a stiff polymer and soft hydrogel, which swells and contracts when exposed to temperature changes. The combination of materials lets the robot open and close on demand with enough force to cut out cells.
The research team, which includes engineers and materials scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, College Park, also doped the hydrogel with iron oxide nanoparticles. This allows the scientists to remotely guide the grippers using magnetic fields.
“These grippers have numerous advantageous properties including the capability for magnetic direction, simultaneous actuation based on temperature, independent function, optical transparency and gripping onto and isolating tissue,” they write in a paper published last month in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. “Over numerous cycles, the resulting grippers can fold completely in either direction on the basis of temperature and fold reversibly.”