Haven’t we all felt like this fly—seemingly helpless while being whacked several times a second by a flappy-fingered flower? At work here is the research of a team of collaborators from Johannes Kepler University Linz and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf trying to make soft robots that can move quickly. Unlike robots that use tethered power sources to move, like a wire carrying electricity, this elastic flower is free-standing and closes and opens when the researchers put it in a fairly weak oscillating magnetic field. For comparison, the magnetic field of a refrigerator magnet is about 5–10 times as strong as the field moving this flower. The material is fairly simple: the researchers mix poly(dimethylsiloxane) and neodymium-iron-boron microparticles and then magnetize the resulting elastic material, so it behaves as if it’s stuffed with a bunch of tiny magnets. By cutting out their desired shapes, the team aims to make, for example, fast-moving grabbers for manipulating biological tissues.
Credit: Xu Wang, Guoyong Mao, Denys Makarov, Martin Kaltenbrunner. Read the paper in Communications Materials (2020, DOI: 10.1038/s43246-020-00067-1)
Do science. Take pictures. Win money. Enter our photo contest here.