These Swimming Robots Can Magnetically Heal Themselves On the Fly-news

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(Photo: UC San Diego)

A team of researchers at the University of California San Diego have created an impressive little robot that is capable of healing itself following otherwise catastrophic damage.

The research team reported their work in Nano Letters and produced the video below to demonstrate just how competent these robots are at putting themselves back together. They take advantage of autonomous propulsion to swim and magnetically heal themselves on the fly. How do they know how to heal? It’s all due to a strong magnetic attraction.

Each robot is just under an inch long and constructed of “a conductive bottom layer; a rigid, hydrophobic middle layer; and an upper strip of aligned, strongly magnetic microparticles.” Propulsion is achieved through platinum in the tail reacting with the hydrogen peroxide solution the robot is swimming through, which in turn forms oxygen bubble to provide forward momentum.

When the robot is broken apart, the tail section continues to move around and a strong magnetic attraction sees it eventually drawn towards the other sections of the body, and they stick back together (magnetically). This healing process is proven to work when the robot is broken into two or three pieces. As to uses for such a tiny robot, the research team eventually see them being deployed to help clean up environmental or industrial hazards.

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