Tianjin University develops world’s first completely soft robot

Researchers at Tianjin University have developed a new type of robot that combines flexible electronics with liquid droplets – the world’s first fully soft-bodied robot, and is expected to become a promising advance for the development of flexible electronics industry and implantable medical devices, China News Service reported on Monday.

Inspired by biological organisms, such as jellyfish, that possess soft mechanics and comply readily with external forces, the liquid droplets with the functionality of flexible electronics and techniques uses droplets as carriers for flexible devices. They possess similar mechanics as the soft organs and supply sophisticated functions that have been demonstrated for sensing, displaying, computing, and energy harvesting and storage.

The research, carried out by a team led by Professor Huang Xian from the Department of Precision Instruments of Tianjin University, was recently published in the science journal Advanced Science.

Compared to existing soft robots, which still rely primarily on rigid components and circuits, the new robot based completely on soft matters has an advantage that it can withstand large deformation through reversible shape shifting. The liquid droplets may improve mobility of flexible electronics, allowing flexible devices to perform tasks in different locations and environments.

It also features autonomous perception and control capabilities, allowing potential applications in environmental monitoring, molecule analysis, drug assessment, and chemical synthesis.

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