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Robotic Technology “Moves” Forward Thanks to Muscle Cells

Robots are machines, and as such, the way that they move is typically guided by an electronic motor, which propels gears and other mechanisms to force the device to move. This however may change very soon. In fact, researchers have found a way to actually make a robot move, with muscle.

A team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, worked on what they call a “bio-bot” and have created the world’s first robot that contains actual muscle cells and can propel itself using its own muscle fibers.

Sound like science fiction? You might be surprised at just how far science has come!

The actual substance used in this tiny robot is called “bio gel” and it acts like a combination of muscle tissue and bone. These substances give the robot structure and stability. This bio-gel was then attached to hydrogel “feet.”

The researchers were able to use electrical impulses, much like our own systems work, to propel the “muscle” and move the robot.

“It’s only natural that we would start from a bio-mimetic design principle, such as the native organization of the musculoskeletal system, as a jumping-off point,” said graduate student Caroline Cvetkovic, co-first author of the paper. “This work represents an important first step in the development and control of biological machines that can be stimulated, trained, or programmed to do work. It’s exciting to think that this system could eventually evolve into a generation of biological machines that could aid in drug delivery, surgical robotics, ‘smart’ implants, or mobile environmental analyzers, among countless other applications.”

This is an exciting advancement in engineering. Although the robot cannot actually walk without guidance, advances could be made to provide neurons to the robot which would enable it to steer. Engineering students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign saw just how much a few people can accomplish when they seek to do what others say is the impossible.

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