The soft-bodied, swimming OsciBot is both powered and controlled by light—opening the door to innovative new designs for autonomous ships.
Developed by a team from UCLA, the OsciBot is propelled by a tail made up of a light-responsive hydrogel material. Exposing the tail to light causes it to heat up and expand, expelling some of the absorbed water and pushing the bot towards the light. The process can be repeated through continuous cooling and heating cycles, with the bot steered by altering the direction of the light.
According to lead author Yusen Zhao, the light power technique “… could be a step toward a variety of robotic designs that are untethered and powered solely by the available light in their surroundings, rather than relying on heavy batteries or power cables.”