The next generation of robots will be shape-shifting

The next generation of robots will be shape-shifting

14. March 2022 0 By Horst Buchwald

The next generation of robots will be shape-shifting

London, March 14, 2022

Physicists at the U.K.’s University of Bath have discovered a new way to coat robots with soft materials in a way that makes them more capable than ever of moving with purpose. The research was recently described in Science Advances.

The study’s authors believe their groundbreaking “active matter” modeling could be a turning point in the development of robots. What’s the case? The researchers hypothesize that once their concept is refined, the shape, motion and behavior of a soft solid will be determined not by its natural elasticity, but by human-controlled activities on its surface.

Explained with an example, while the surface of an ordinary soft material always contracts into a sphere, active matter can be programmed to counteract this tendency.

It is hoped that active matter will lead to a new generation of machines whose function will no longer be controlled by a central controller (like today’s robotic arms in factories), but will consist of many individual active units that work together to determine the machine’s motion and function. This, he said, is comparable to the way our own biological tissues work, such as the fibers of the heart muscle.

Another idea: researchers could tailor the size and shape of drug capsules by coating the surface of nanoparticles with a reactive, active material. This, in turn, could have a dramatic impact on how a drug interacts with cells in the body.

Dr. Jack Binysh, lead author of the study, said, “Active matter makes us look at the known rules of nature – like the fact that surface tension must be positive – in a new light. Seeing what happens when we break those rules, and how we can harness the results, is an exciting place to be in our research.”

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