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Researchers Are Developing Shape-Shifting Fluid Robots

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Representations of fluid robots.

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University say they have created fluid robots.

Credit: rexboggs5

Bar-Ilan University researchers say they have created fluid robots that could operate better than solid robots in chaotic, hostile environments.

The fluid robots are composed of materials similar to Silly Putty that can behave as both liquids and solids, enabling them to perform tasks that conventional machines cannot.

The researchers experimented with non-Newtonian fluids, which have varying viscosities depending on the rate that mechanical force is applied against them. After testing several non-Newtonian fluids, the researchers developed prototype fluid robots made of blobs of starch grains suspended in a sugary solution.

Sound waves from audio speakers under the surface where the blobs rested help control their mechanical properties, and depending on the volumes and frequencies of the sounds, the researchers can make the blobs move. They found this technique could make the fluid robots drag metal items more than five times their weight. Moreover, the blobs can change shape, split into smaller blobs that could be controlled individually, merge to form larger blobs, and drip through gratings.

The researchers say these attributes suggest fluid robots could be used in search-and-rescue missions.

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