Take 3D printing technology, add some clever chemistry, and you have the recipe for a “soft” autonomous robot that can move without being tethered to an external power source. In fact, it does not contain any electronics at all.
This marvel was created by researchers at Harvard University. Nicknamed the “octobot” for its eight legs, it does not have any rigid components. Each of the functional parts was printed using 3D printing technology: fuel storage, power, and actuators. The device uses pneumatic power, using gas under pressure. The gas is generated as needed using a chemical process that converts small amounts of hydrogen peroxide into large volumes of gas. The octobot’s controls use microfluidics to create logic circuits. Soft lithography and molding are also used to create the robot.
The next steps are to improve its ability to move and interact with its environment. This could lead the way to all sorts of applications, including ingestible robots that could perform tests, deliver medication, or perform other treatments inside a patient’s body, while operating autonomously without requiring control by an operator. Or perhaps they could form the basis of a friendly mechanical symbiote that “lives” on your skin and moves to wherever it is needed to sense or treat a part of your body.