Now, Water Robots to Serve Biomedical and Environmental Needs

It probably needs no saying, but technology sure is grabbing a lot of attention these days. We already have Sophia, the world’s first humanoid robot with the capability to emote a range of expressions. But even that is old news; Sophia was a hot topic in the year 2014 when she was first introduced to the world. There has been a lot of progress since then, and AI and Robotics have greatly benefited in recent years. There is definitely more to come: people can be sure about that. If people felt like betting money on more technological prowess, as they do for sports using hollywoodbets login my account, they would come off rich.

Mostly, robots are made of metal or in some cases, silicon. But these metallic robots, with electrical wiring, are difficult to use in liquid conditions. Most robots have to be kept away from water, to be kept safe. But not anymore. A new innovation might just be the thing for “water robots” to be a thing! 

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory partnered with Hong Kong University to develop a new type of robot, that has never been tried before, in the history of robotics: Aquabots, or robots that would be made of liquids. ACS Nano published this groundbreaking research which suggested that the use of liquid as the main component would allow these robots to function that other soft robots are unable to perform. Presently, soft robots are made out of artificial materials like poly, which puts restrictions on their flexibility. 

This phenomenal research was led by an equally phenomenal group of scientists, in the form of Ho Cheng Shum, Thomas Russell and Shipei Zhu. The research was originally the brainchild of Zhu, who was curious as to what would happen if magnetic nanoparticles were integrated into ATPS assembly systems. ATPS systems, short got Aqueuos two-phase systems are fractionation units which help to separate aqueous solutions into two different phases. As a general rule, the separation takes time, because the process cannot be controlled. But with Zhu’s vision, the magnetic component could easily be controlled from the outside by exposing them to magnetic fields. This would allow them to produce über-soft robots which can be adapted to suit various functions.

With Aquabots, the range of uses would dramatically increase. The liquid component could be changed according to the aqueous solution to which the robot is to be exposed. Since the robots are completely made of water, it would be easy to use them for bio-applications without having to be scared of harmful side effects. The robot would especially be useful for functions inside the human body, because of the bio-material composition. Most devices, like pacemakers or cardioverter defibrillators, often expose the patient to a risk of a toxic shock. But Aquabots would be easy to use within the body. 

In the paper, the team explains, in detail, how these robots are made. That uses aqueous two-phase systems to print water-in-water constructs. These constructs, by aqueous phase-separation-induced self-assembly, will produce these ultrasoft aquabots. These robots have hierarchical structures with varying lengths. These can successfully overcome the barrier of the resolution limits that printing offers. The resolution limits often act as a limitation, but with water-in-water constraints, they can easily be overcome. The robots in question were assembled in aqueous environments, so there are no doubts regarding their functionality in similar situations. 

Of course, these robots are merely prototypes. They are very simple in structure, and the main aim of the paper was to show the world how these robots would be assembled. Now that it has been proved that Aquabots can be assembled using this process, it is a huge step for the field of science. It has opened the gates of research for further, complex studies in the area, which would make way for the production of Aquabots that can perform far more complicated tasks.

Shum is excited about the next work that would enable them to understand the functioning of the robots better. He is looking forward to researching the other functions and properties that Aquabots come with, apart from the ones that they have stated in their paper.


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