Hydrogel films programmed to shrink and expand in complex motions could replicate the movements of natural muscles.
Although soft robotics holds great potential in the medical field, creating materials able to respond and take shape like natural muscle has been challenging.
To help open the door to more soft robotics applications, the team from the University of Texas Arlington developed a method of programming hydrogel films to expand and shrink in a controlled manner that causes the films to take on complex motions and 3D shapes. The technology relies on using hydrogels that respond to temperatures with different local degrees of expansion or shrinkage when exposed to a digital light, a characteristic assistant professor Kyungsuk Yum calls phototunabiity.
According to Stathis Meletis, chair of UTA’s materials science and engineering department, “The speed with which [Yum’s] approach can be applied, as well as its scalability, makes it a unique tool for future research and applications.”
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