Several robots, such as those from Boston Dynamics, are astonished by the skills they have. What if, once damaged, they could regenerate themselves? Well, scientists at the University of California at San Diego give clues that this is not far from happening and revealed, in an article published in the American Chemical Society, a machine with such capacity.
Only 2 centimeters long and shaped like a fish, the little one, seen in the GIF below, is composed of three layers. While the lower one contains a conductive part and the upper one a strip of magnetic microparticles (Nd2Fe14B), between them is a hydrophobic layer.
In turn, the tail has platinum, which reacts with hydrogen peroxide fuel to form oxygen bubbles, which propel the unit. When cut, magic happens. Check out the novelty in action.
Repair strategies and implications
The creation, positioned on a Petri dish (for Joseph Wang and the team at the head of the project to analyze everything carefully), brings impressive results. Once separated, the pieces “travel” autonomously to meet again, thanks to the magnetic interaction.
According to the researchers, the same occurs with three “slices” or, simply, if the tape is placed in a different position. The expectation, now, is to incorporate the technology in larger robots, saving, for example, stuck production lines or even preventing humans from putting themselves in risky situations to repair devices.
Anyway, the invention can already bring advances to several areas in its current format. Cleaning of difficult-to-reach environments or performing surgeries that take advantage of units of brittle polymers or soft hydrogels, easily cracked or torn, are among the candidates for benefits.
“The new self-healing method represents an important step towards the development of unprecedented ‘on-the-fly’ repair strategies for small-scale robot swimmers,” says one of the excerpts from the study.