Multiple-polyps-1

Tiny, Aquatic Robot Cleans Water By Capturing Contaminants

July 24, 2020
Inspired by a coral polyp, the plastic mini robot moves by magnetism and light.

Artificial polyps

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology develop a tiny plastic robot, made of responsive polymers, which moves under the influence of light and magnetism. In the future, this “wireless aquatic polyp” should be able to attract and capture contaminant particles from surrounding liquid or pick up and transport cells for analysis in diagnostic devices. The researchers published their results in the journal PNAS.

The mini robot is inspired by a coral polyp; a small soft creature with tentacles, which makes up the corals in the ocean. The stem of the living polyps makes a specific movement that creates a current which attracts food particles. Subsequently, the tentacles grab the food particles floating by.

“I was inspired by the motion of these coral polyps, especially their ability to interact with the environment through self-made currents,” says doctoral candidate Marina Pilz Da Cunha. “Combining two different stimuli is rare since it requires delicate material preparation and assembly, but it is interesting for creating untethered robots because it allows for complex shape changes and tasks to be performed."

The developed wireless artificial polyp is 1 by 1 cm, has a stem that reacts to magnetism and light steered tentacles. The tentacles move by shining light on them. Different wavelengths lead to different results. For example, the tentacles 'grab' under the influence of UV light, while they “release” with blue light.

For more information, visit: www.tue.nl

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