MAY 18, 2018 1:06 PM PDT

A 3D-Printed Mini-robot That Walks, Changes Shape, and Moves Objects

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

A 3D-printed hydrogel micro-device walking underwater (Daehoon Han/Rutgers University)

A team of material engineering research from Rutgers University-New Brunswick have 3D-printed soft gel-based mini-robots that not only walk and change shape when activated by electricity but also lifts small objects and moves them to a different location.

The core concept of this design is closely related to another work reported earlier by the same group this year. The team, led by Howon Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, developed a so-called 4D printing approach to constructing soft microscale device. It involves printing a three-dimensional object using a material called hydrogel. The printed object, due to its chemical makeup, can change shape over time as its ambient temperature changes.

A hydrogel is a colloidal network of polymer chains that are hydrophilic, easily dispersed in water. Once the polymer chains are cross-linked, the hydrogel can transform into a three-dimensional solid. As its name indicates, a hydrogel is highly water absorbent, and it can trap over 70% water (w/w) within its polymeric networks.

Due to their softness, flexibility and non-toxic nature, hydrogels are widely used to build scaffolds in tissue engineering. The hydrogel-based scaffolds emulate the natural microenvironment in the tissue to provide a suitable habitat for animal or human cells to grow and differentiate. Hydrogels are also used to make diapers, contact lenses, Jell-O and many other consumer products.

The ultimate goal of this research is to create miniature devices that can repair or form tissues like muscles and stomach liner, or to deliver diagnostic and therapeutic agents, or even to perform underwater inspections.

The advantage of the hydrogel-based devices, when compared to those constructed with hard materials, is cheaper to manufacture, easy to be miniaturized, designed and manipulated.

“Our 3D-printed smart gel has great potential in biomedical engineering because it resembles tissues in the human body that also contain lots of water and are very soft,” said Howon Lee in the interview with the Rutgers University news press. “It can be used for many different types of underwater devices that mimic aquatic life like the octopus.”

The study was published online on May 17, 208 in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

Soft Robotic Manipulation and Locomotion with a 3D Printed Electroactive Hydrogel (Howon Lee/Rutgers University)

Source: Rutgers University

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Radioactive Tracer Shines the Floodlights on Inflammation
OCT 06, 2020
Radioactive Tracer Shines the Floodlights on Inflammation
A patient checks into the hospital with difficulty breathing. Is inflammation to blame? How can physicians visualize are ...
OCT 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Using AI to map carbon storage in isolated trees
OCT 16, 2020
Using AI to map carbon storage in isolated trees
Mapping over 1.8 billion trees takes time. But with the help of supercomputers and machine learning algorithms, a team o ...
OCT 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
OCT 23, 2020
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
Since its birth in the early 20th century, atomic research has brought mostly positive impacts to our lives. This week i ...
NOV 06, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Most Powerful X-ray Source On Earth
NOV 06, 2020
The Most Powerful X-ray Source On Earth
Located inside the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Z Pulsed Power Facility (or Z Machine) i ...
NOV 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
NOV 20, 2020
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
Masatoshi Koshiba, a revered Japanese physicist known for his groundbreaking work on cosmic neutrino detection, passed a ...
NOV 27, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Our Chemistry Connection to Stars and the Cosmo
NOV 27, 2020
Our Chemistry Connection to Stars and the Cosmo
A common entity that connects everything from majestically looking galaxies and nebula to the enormously diversified bio ...
Loading Comments...