April 29, 2009
A chemical gel that can walk like worms and caterpillars
A Japanese robotics lab has demonstrated a chemical gel that can walk like an inchworm or a looper caterpillar. Shingo Maeda and colleagues made the colour-changing, motile gel by combining polymers that change in size depending on their chemical environment. It is based on an oscillating chemical reaction known as Belousov–Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. Maeda and colleagues created a gel that magnifies the small changes in size by building tension into it. That produces the curved shape as well as amplifying the material’s response to the oscillating reaction inside itself. This demonstration shows that chemical systems can be self organized and they can generate their own control and generate mechanical signals from within. These abilities could be used to make some components of a future robot. Awesome!