When I say “robot” what do you think of? I’m guessing it’s something boxy, solid, metal, maybe a little rigid in its movements. So, what if I told you that scientists are working on liquid robots, or to be more accurate, slime robots. This strange little guy challenges our understanding of what robots can be capable of, and in the process, has the power to revolutionize medicine!
The “slime robot” is the product of research from scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and its revolutionary properties include: being able to keep its shape in liquid and air, grab objects, self-heal, and conduct electricity. 1
And while it may look different than your idea of a robot, we’re only just starting to understand all of its unique potential.
What is a Slime Robot?
In its simplest terms, the slime robot is made up of magnetic particles suspended in slime material–made with borax and polyvinyl alcohol. Remember in science class as a kid how you learned magnets can attract and repel each other? The tiny bits of magnet in the slime act the same way, propelling these slimy robots along using that magnetic attraction. This allows the slime to be highly manipulated and do everything from fit into small spaces, to grab objects; a combination that is difficult to get with most robots out there. It feels absolutely genius that a simple concept from 4th grade science class is now being used in such a stunning innovation.
Soft bodied robots could be used for many purposes. They could be used in medicine to encapsulate sharp or dangerous objects that have been swallowed, like batteries or glass, before passing through the body or being surgically removed. Or, the robots could provide highly targeted drug delivery precisely to the part of the body that needs it by traveling to that area and only releasing the drug once in the right place. In addition, slime robots are conductive and could have uses in motion monitoring, and circuit repair! 2
While all of these functions are still in the very early stages of development, the leap in innovation that slime robots could propel us toward is very exciting. We have an entirely new material on our hands to experiment with, and we still don’t have a full understanding of all of its properties!
Slime Robots in Action!
Frankly, it can be hard to describe a “magnetic soft-bodied robot” in words alone. And while these robots aren’t much to look at, they are absolutely fascinating to watch in action.
To get a closer look at these innovative robots and learn more about them, here’s a great video from one of our favorite science creators, AsapSCIENCE.
A big thanks to AsapSCIENCE for this video, if you want to see more of their entertaining but still super informative videos, go check out their YouTube Channel. They really are some of the internet’s best science educators!
Innovations on the Horizon
As a writer, it’s always fun to cover these kinds of breakthroughs whose potential is yet to be realized. These slime robots are a new material that still hold a lot of untapped potential. And while it may take a while for them to be cleared as part of regular medical procedures, or make their way into electronic devices we could hold in our hands, these kinds of innovations are still worth celebrating.
These kinds of breakthroughs are so emblematic of the boundlessness of human curiosity. Our ability to take ideas and thoughts from disparate places and put them together to create something completely unique is truly remarkable. When we make room for collaboration, curiosity, and unbridled enthusiasm, we open the doors to innovation! Here are a few of my favorite examples of this kind of thinking from the Goodness Exchange Library:
Mushrooms Could Start Replacing Leather, Bacon, and Styrofoam in the Next 5 Years
Have you ever tasted bacon made of fungi? Received a package cushioned by mushrooms? My guess is not yet… but probably soon! New York-based company Ecovative has created an alternative to plastic, which can save water, time, money, and the planet, too!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Asparagus: A New Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries?
A feeling very familiar to most of us almost kept this life-changing treatment for spinal cord injuries from making it to testing! Here’s how Andrew Pelling and his fellow researchers overcame self-doubt to create this breakthrough innovation.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Reinventing Plastic with Methane and Microbes
How close are we to reinventing plastic? Well, it looks like a future with easily accessible, truly biodegradable plastics that can replace the harmful plastics we use today is right around the corner—and it uses the power of bacteria!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
When you think about it, our potential to solve problems really is boundless! If robots can be made of slime, what could be the next big breakthrough? Solutions are out there, and people are hard at work using their unique skills, interests, and world views to make the future brighter for us all. What would happen if we took more time to celebrate, support, and share their work? How would that change the way we talk about the future, and talk with each other?
Stay beautiful and keep laughing!
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- Motoyama, Sono. ““Magnetic Slime Robot” Could Slip into Hard-To-Reach Places.” The New Stack, 24 Apr. 2022, thenewstack.io/magnetic-slime-robot-could-slip-into-hard-to-reach-places/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2022. ↩
- Sun, Mengmeng, et al. “Reconfigurable Magnetic Slime Robot: Deformation, Adaptability, and Multifunction.” Advanced Functional Materials, vol. 32, no. 26, 25 Mar. 2022, p. 2112508, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202112508, 10.1002/adfm.202112508. Accessed 28 Sept. 2022. ↩
- AsapSCIENCE. “This Is the First LIQUID Robot, and It’s Unbelievable.” YouTube, 14 Apr. 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmV3m0QqNOY. Accessed 28 Sept. 2022. ↩