Robot Shifts Between Solid and Liquid States: Dr Chengfeng Pan’s Team

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Written By Henry Dalziel

I've been living and working in Hong Kong since 2016 as an SEO Professional.

A team led by Dr. Chengfeng Pan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong created a robot that can transition between solid and liquid states. The hydrogel robot is built of a polymer that can absorb vast volumes of water. When subjected to a high magnetic field, the hydrogel hardens and becomes rigid. The hydrogel recovers to its original, soft state when the magnetic field is removed.This is not the first time that a robot’s state can be changed in reaction to a stimuli. In 2016, a team of Harvard University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers developed a robot constructed of a shape-changing material that could convert between hard and soft states. That robot, however, could only adjust its shape, not its overall hardness.The Chinese team’s robot is the first to be able to adjust its shape as well as its toughness. This is a huge step forward since it allows for the development of robots that can adapt to their surroundings and modify their attributes on the fly. A robot built of this material, for example, may be soft and flexible in water but hard and unyielding on land.This discovery could lead to a variety of applications, including soft robots that can interact with humans and shape-changing robots that can handle challenging terrain. The possibilities are limitless, and we are only just getting started with these materials.
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