Science

This Ray is half robot and half life

A skeleton made of gold, a plastic cover and 200,000 heart muscle cells from rats. An artificial rays from the United States swims with these components. Researchers control the mixing nature with color light signals.

200,000 cardiac myocytes from rats to sit on the outer shell of artificial skate. The genetic material of the cells researchers of at Harvard University in Cambridge have changed so that they move together on light signals to. The contraction causes a downward movement of the fins, which is typical for rays. The upward movement is, however, passively.

The skeleton gold stores some of the energy of the downward motion, which moves up the fin.

The artificial rays is a project of the so-called soft robotic, a relatively young discipline of robotics, where researchers soft and hard materials combine based on biological models. An example in this case Leucoraja was erinacean, a Palm-large rays.

Its artificial counterpart is even smaller. The robot rays is only 16 mm long, so takes on a one-euro coin place, and weighs only 10 mg.

Hybrid creature moves with 1.5 mm/s

In the journal Science, the researchers report of successful swimming trials. You can separately enable the left and right fin with light signals, and to direct the robot. With a speed of 1.5 mm / s the essence of mixed past floatable elegant obstacles. Only downside: the artificial rays can move only in a nutrient solution, because otherwise the heart muscle cells would die.

Karaghen Hudson
The robot rays (left) has a skeleton made of gold. It will store some of the energy of the downward movement of the fin. The upward movement is then passively. Photo: Karaghen Hudson

With soft Robotics focus are also researchers of at Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT). They have developed a robot trout should move similar to smooth thanks to a soft silicone case like their biological model. To move the tail, the robot manages carbon dioxide in two chambers alternately. The gas in a pressure bottle is stored.

And why the whole thing? The artificial fish should in the future be used to study the habits of fish.

Locusts become cyborgs

Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis build not robot based on biological models, but simply make animals into Cyborgs. Her recipe: You hijack the brain of locusts with electrodes. You get any odors that perceives the animal with his sensitive antennas, and store the data on a chip on the back. The cyborg grasshoppers could go in the future in suspect regions looking for explosives.