The latest venture to come out of MIT is a robotic claw that has been designed with quick reflexes and enough strength to grab hold of a fish. Fish can be caught and held effectively using tentacle-like appendages made with 3D-printing and laser-cut cubes. The robots are highly transparent, making them virtually undetectable when submerged in water.
The robot is created with hydrogel, a gel that is composed of 90% water is powered by a tube that pumps water in, to make it expand and contract. The fact that it’s made with water, powered with water and designed to stay submerged in water helps to make it virtually invisible.
These types of soft robots have been created in the past, but they’re usually constructed with silicone because hydrogel is too flimsy to quickly create any force. Hydrogel robots previously created force at a slow rate through osmosis, which could potentially take hours.
However, the biggest drawback to creating soft robots with silicone is that they’re very easy to detect, and the intention was to create a unit that appeared almost completely invisible in water.
To achieve this, engineers created a formula that used several chemicals that have been cured with UV light to make a tough and flexible hydrogel, capable of quick reactions.
We could be witnessing the dawn of a new generation of invisible aquatic robots, which could provide invaluable data for marine biology research or just scare a few fishes for kicks – the possibilities are endless.