A team of physicists from the University of Bath in the UK recently published in the international scientific journal Science Advances a new method for coating soft robots with materials so that they can move and operate more efficiently. , which is tantamount to a new study that may lead to the emergence of the next generation of shape-shifting robots.
The most eye-catching aspect of this study is the major breakthrough made by the researchers in active substances, which will also become a key turning point in the design of future robots. Once such design concepts are further developed, experts can finally determine the shape, behavior and movement of soft objects through artificial control of the surface activity of the soft object (rather than the object’s innate elasticity).
Basically, the surface of most soft materials shrinks into spheres, like the condensation process of water droplets, because the surface of liquids and soft materials naturally shrink to the smallest surface area. What’s cool, though, is that, by design, actives can completely defy such natural properties. With such technologies and actives, experts expect the next generation of machines to be built from a combination of many individual active units that work together to determine how the machine moves and functions. These next-generation machines will be governed by a central controller that operates in the same way that our human tissues function.
Completely subvert the familiar laws of nature
Through the aforementioned design mechanisms, scientists will be able to create robotic arms composed of flexible materials, powered by robots on the surface of the material. Another possible breakthrough is that the size and shape of Drug Delivery Capsules can be changed by coating a layer of Responsive Materials and active materials on the surface of nanomolecules.
According to members of the research team, what is most interesting about the new study is that it completely upends the way we look at the “familiar laws of nature.” In other words, actives give us new insights into familiar laws of nature. All in all, the researchers see this study as an important and enlightening proof-of-concept, and they have developed a set of theories and simulations that can describe a 3D soft solid with a surface that is actively stressed.
The results show that active stress expands the surface of the material and exerts a pulling force on the solid below, which in turn causes the overall shape to change. The solid shape then changes as the elastic properties of the material change. The research team will now further apply this principle to design more specific robots, as well as to delve deeper into collective behavior and what happens when multiple active solids are stacked together.