Within the world of robotics, squishiness has for some time been something of a holy grail, with engineers seeking to create machines with no hard components, allowing for greater contortion and the ability to squeeze through tight spaces.
These inks contain platinum particles, which react with hydrogen peroxide in order to release oxygen and water vapor. This causes the robot’s arms to inflate and flex, with a series of valves and switches controlling the movement of gasses in order to ensure that while some tentacles expand, others contract, thereby propelling the octobot forwards. At present, the study authors have not come up with a way of steering the robot, although now that they have got it moving they plan to investigate methods to control the direction of its thrusting.
Less than 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) high and roughly the size of a human palm, the current model of the robot can run for between four and eight minutes before exhausting its hydrogen peroxide supply, although larger versions should be able to stay active for longer periods between refuels.
Once perfected, this technology could have a huge number of practical applications, leading to the creation of highly agile robotics that may be of use in responding to emergencies or military surveillance.