Last Updated: January 25, 2023, 18:40 IST
Bioengineering is taking technology to the next level. Biobots that were once developed by scientists at the University of Illinois, as less than a centimetre long, have developed much more as its latest version has rolled in. Combining living cellular components with three-dimensional scaffolds, researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have created what they are calling eBiobots. These first-of-its-kind creations can generate motion and can be used to develop a new generation of miniature robots. The research was published in Science Robotics titled, “Remote control of muscle-driven miniature robots with battery-free wireless optoelectronics.”
The researchers have also shared a video of these eBiobots, explaining the creation of this technological marvel. You can also see it in action here:
According to New Atlas, instead of legs, this version has two hydrogel or muscle-tissue actuators. Each is equipped with a microLED. The actuators have an electronics module which also has a receiver coil. When a radio signal is applied externally, the coil powers up the LEDs, causing them to pulse. Due to this the muscle tissue repeatedly contracts, shuffling the actuator forward.
Professor Rashid Bashir, who led the study stated that merging microelectronics this way also merges the two distinct worlds of biology and electronics. Since both have advantages of their own, these electronic biobots will be useful for a myriad of applications. Professor Bashir said, “Integrating microelectronics allows the merger of the biological world and the electronics world, both with many advantages of their own, to now produce these electronic biobots and machines that could be useful for many medical, sensing, and environmental applications in the future.” The research was led by Professor John A. Rogers from Northwestern University.
The research published in the Science Robotics journal stated that “integrating on-board electronics and remote control in these biological machines will enable various applications across engineering, biology, and medicine.” These hybrid bioelectronic robots are equipped with battery-free and micro-inorganic light-emitting diodes. With the help of it, these can gain wireless control and real-time communication.
The research also stated, “Centimeter-scale walking robots were computationally designed and optimized to host onboard optoelectronics with independent stimulation of multiple optogenetic skeletal muscles, achieving remote command of walking, turning, plowing, and transport functions both at individual and collective levels.”
With the development of this latest version of eBiobots, a new path has been opened toward a class of biohybrid machines. This technological advancement will be able to combine biological actuation and sensing with onboard computing.
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