Washington :Researchers at the Case Western Reserve University have developed a ‘biohybrid’ robot that crawls like sea turtles.
A muscle from the slug’s mouth provides the movement, which is currently controlled by an external electrical field.
The researchers also manipulated collagen from the slug’s skin to build an organic scaffold to be tested in new versions of the robot.
The scientists state that the swarms of biohybrid robots could be in future released for locating the source of a toxic leak in a pond that would send animals fleeing, adding they could search the ocean floor for a black box flight data recorder and a potentially long process that may leave current robots stilled with dead batteries.
“We’re building a living machine that’s not completely organic,” said PhD student Victoria Webster, who is leading the research.
Webster will discuss mining the sea slug for materials and constructing the hybrid, which is a little under two inches long, at the Living Machines conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, this week.
The researchers chose the sea slug because the animal is durable down to its cells and can withstand substantial changes in temperature and salinity.
For the searching tasks, “we want the robots to be compliant, to interact with the environment,” Webster said. “One of the problems with traditional robotics, especially on the small scale, is that actuators (the units that provide movement) tend to be rigid,” she added.
The papers were presented at the Living Machines.