New Materials Discovered for Soft Robots and AI Tech

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soft robots, ai robot
Tumisu | Pixabay.com

Thanks to the scientists from the MIT Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics and an unusual species of sea worm, a new adaptable material has been discovered for AI robots.

Through biomimicry–the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems–MIT has used the Nereis virens worm to develop a “hydrogel made from a synthesized protein,” says DesignNews.

Taking inspiration from nature to create compelling new tech is a tenant of Industry 4.0–where using new technologies to leverage existing systems and technologies takes advantage of multiple generations of research and development.

Researchers of the ACS Nano have continued to study the application of the hydrogel as they continue to develop the material, Martin-Martinez said. “Thanks to that, we understand what is happening and we can control it and improve it,” he told DesignNews.

Soft Robots & Flexibility

The worm itself has a soft, organic jaw made of a material containing Histidine. This is a flexible compound “as strong as the material in human teeth or bones,” reports DesignNews. This allows the worm to become completely flexible or rigid, depending on its environment.

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This gives it “structural stability and impressive mechanical performance,” said Francisco Martin-Martinez, a research scientist in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “When we change the ions of the environment and the salt concentration, the material expands or contracts,” he said.

Indeed, because the material—like the worm’s jaw—responds to external stimuli it could be vital for the development of electrical components for AI robots or for the muscles of polymer-based soft robots, Martin-Martinez said.

What other animals should scientists study as they continue to improve robotic parts? What other uses could this new material be used for in soft robots or electronics?

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