Thanks to the versatility they present, soft robots have experienced a great boom within the technology industry. This is thanks to the ability they offer to work with biological tissues that can be delicate to manipulate with other materials. Also, soft robots can enter spaces where rigid components cannot.
Taking into account these characteristics, a team of engineers undertook the task of creating DraBot, a dragonfly-shaped robot which they endowed with a completely soft structure and devoid of electronic components.
In addition, this soft robot has the ability to glide through water, as well as respond to environmental conditions such as pH, variations in temperature or oil.
It should be noted that at the moment the robot is only a prototype, hoping in the future to achieve a final version that can be used to patrol the water as environmental sentinels.
Among the team involved in the project, the members of the Duke University of the United States, Shyni Varghese and Vardhman Kumar, stand out.
The inspiration for the creation of this soft robot came from the favorable result achieved with a hydrogel invented by Varghese and his team for the purpose of reacting to specific stimuli and exerting autonomous locomotion. Using the hydrogel, the researchers proceeded to paint a pair of wings, thereby making DraBot respond to changes in the pH of the surrounding water. In this way, when the water became acidic, the front wing merged with the rear wing, returning to its initial state once the pH of the water reached a normal level, allowing DraBot to respond to instructions again.
In the case of oil, DraBot has special sponges that absorb this substance when it is floating on the surface of the water, causing them to change color and warn of its presence. In a situation where the water becomes hot, DraBot’s wings will turn yellow.
Based on these results, the DraBot functions could be used in the future to be applied in the detection of environmental problems such as acidification of fresh water.
You can read the study at researchgate.net.