Artificial intelligence

The soft little robot can split into small pieces and then reassemble after crossing small gaps

<img src="; alt="Le petit robot souple peut être divisé en petits morceaux pour permettre le passage dans de petits espaces" title="Vue d'ensemble des stratégies de manœuvre trans-échelle et de reconfiguration d'échelle des robots ferrofluidiques miniatures reconfigurables à l'échelle (SMFR). (A) Contrôle trans-échelle du SMFR : locomotion du centi-FR, milli-FR et micro-FR basé sur le gradient magnétique, à la fois le gradient magnétique et le couple, et le couple magnétique uniquement, respectivement. (B) Comportements de réponse des gouttelettes de ferrofluide dans les champs magnétiques. (C) Le SMFR est manipulé par un système d'actionnement magnétique conçu sur mesure (le système M3RA) composé de quatre électroaimants, un aimant permanent sphérique (SPM) et une étape de traduction motorisée. Pour observer facilement la composition interne du système, nous cachons un quart de la structure. (D) Déformation et reconfiguration à l'échelle du SMFR : déformation par étirement, réduction d'échelle par séparation et mise à l'échelle par recombinaison. La flèche rouge représente la direction de polarisation du champ magnétique. (E) Scénario d'application typique du SMFR basé sur la combinaison des capacités ci-dessus : locomotion dans un espace fortement variable tel que le réseau vasculaire. Crédit : Scientific advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq1677″ width=”800″ height=”530″/>

Overview of cross-scale maneuvering and scale-reconfiguration strategies of miniature scale-reconfigurable (SMFR) ferrofluidic robots. (A) Cross-scale control of SMFR: centi-FR, milli-FR, and micro-FR locomotion based on magnetic gradient, both magnetic gradient and torque, and magnetic torque only, respectively. (B) Response behaviors of ferrofluid droplets in magnetic fields. (C) The SMFR is manipulated by a custom-designed magnetic actuation system (the M3RA system) consisting of four electromagnets, a spherical permanent magnet (SPM), and a motorized translation stage. To easily observe the internal composition of the system, we hide a quarter of the structure. (D) SMFR-scaled deformation and reconfiguration: deformation by stretching, downscaling by separation, and scaling by recombination. The red arrow represents the polarization direction of the magnetic field. (E) Typical SMFR application scenario based on the combination of the above capabilities: locomotion in a highly variable space such as the vascular network. Credit: Scientists progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq1677

A team of researchers from Soochow University, together with two colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and another from the Harbin Institute of Technology, have developed a type of soft robot that can be divided into smaller components to traverse small gaps and then reassemble. In their article published in the journal Scientists progressthe group describes how they made their tiny robots and suggests possible uses for them.

As the science of robotics continues to mature, engineers around the world continue to find new ways to make them. In this new effort, the researchers made their own from a ferrofluid (nanoparticles of magnetic iron oxide) that they suspended in a clear oil. The robot is controlled using external magnets.

Using a robot made of a material that is only very loose, the researchers note, allows its shape to be changed on demand. By applying several magnetic fields, they showed that it was possible to steer their robot through a maze, sometimes changing shape to overcome obstacles. They forced him to lie down, for example, to squeeze through a narrow passage. They also broke it into a desired number of smaller parts to pass through porous material. Either way, the robot was then easily reassembled into a single round robot form and continued on its journey. They note that such a robot could be made in a wide variety of sizes.

Credit: Xinjian Fan et al, Scientists progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq1677

The robot could eventually be used in medical applications as a means of transporting drugs to hard-to-reach parts of the body, such as lung nodes or parts of the brain. The researchers acknowledge that for practical applications the design would have to overcome many hurdles, the most obvious being the development of a magnetic control system capable of precisely penetrating bones such as the skull. Others, meanwhile, have noted that such a robotic system could prove useful in lab-on-a-chip devices where chemical processes are performed for tasks such as virus detection. The tiny new robots could perhaps be used to transport chemicals needed for reactions.

On-the-fly reconfigurable magnetic slime used as a robot

More information:
Xinjian Fan et al, Scale-Reconfigurable Miniature Ferrofluidic Robots for Negotiating Highly Variable Spaces, Scientists progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq1677

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Quote: A small soft robot can divide into small pieces and then reassemble after traversing small spaces (2022, September 19) Retrieved September 21, 2022 from robot-tinier-bits.html

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