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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: The impervious inchworm

by Manny Morone
May 17, 2019

A video of a small soft robot crawling on a mesh strip with a candle burning underneath and through the mesh.
Credit: Po-Yen Chen and Haitao Yang

A team at National University of Singapore is making soft robots like this one that have no onboard electronics, which can fail in wet or fiery conditions like those found in disaster zones. The robot crawls around thanks to its shell, which is folded up using origami patterns so that it can scrunch and expand again when air is pumped into it. To make the robot, the team first folds the origami shape into paper, soaks the paper in a graphene oxide solution, and then soaks all of that in an aluminum ion solution so that the ions slip inside the graphene layer. After intense heating, the aluminum ions form nanocrystals of a stiff, nonflammable metal oxide in the shape of the origami pattern. The researchers finally coat it with a stretchy elastomer to produce a sturdy but movable body for the robot.

Credit: Po-Yen Chen and Haitao Yang. Read the paper here: ACS Nano 2019, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b00144

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