A soft robot that measures only four millimeters in size and is regulated by a magnet has been invented by the scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. The robot can roll, crawl and walk through rough terrain. It can also carry cargo and climb onto the surface of water and swim in water as well. The inspiration for this project was derived from caterpillars and soft bodied larvae of beetle. Jellyfish too served as biological model for this project.
Nature Drives the Invention
It is hoped that one day, this small sized robot might be able to perform surgeries that are minimally invasive or targeted delivery of drug.
Stuttgart, as it has been named, is able to move around easily in a complex environment. It can move both on land and within a liquid form and these are the qualities that make this soft robot unique in nature. The robot is as flat as a rectangular sheet of paper and measures only four millimeters in size. It is made from a soft elastic polymer. Whilst other small-scale robots that are prevailing in the market come with very limited mobility with no ability to cruise over a terrain that is uneven or overcome hurdles, this newly invented robot can quite easily transition from moving on solid surfaces to swimming through liquids without much of physical intervention. It can also perform functions such as lifting cargo, then transporting and depositing it at it its targeted place. As such, even without legs, this new robot can roam around as freely and easily as a caterpillar.
This invention by the team that is led by Prof. Metin Sitti, Director of the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems is expected to be published in the February edition of Nature, renowned science journal. The online version of the paper has already published it on 24th January.