Researchers from North Carolina State University have a found a new way to control robots. The team used magnetic fields to remotely manipulate microparticle chains embedded in soft robotic devices.
“By putting these self-assembling chains into soft robots, we are able to have them perform more complex functions while still retaining relatively simple designs,” says Joe Tracy, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of a paper on the work. “Possible applications for these devices range from remotely triggered pumps for drug delivery to the development of remotely deployable structures.”
The researchers introduced iron microparticles into a liquid polymer mixture and then applied a magnetic field to induce the microparticles to form parallel chains. The mixture was then dried, leaving behind an elastic polymer thin film embedded with the aligned chains of magnetic particles.
Specifically, the direction of the magnetic field and its strength can be varied. The chains of iron microparticles respond by aligning themselves and the surrounding polymer in the same direction as the applied magnetic field.
The NC State engineers used the technique to create three kinds of soft robots.
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