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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Future Robots Need No Motors


A mini arm powered by light lifting a weight 50 times heavier than itself.

Researchers at The University of Hong Kong have created what they describe as the first-ever nickel-hydroxide actuating material capable of being powered by visible light, electricity, or other stimuli.

Credit: The University of Hong Kong

A University of Hong Kong team has created the first-ever nickel-hydroxide actuating material powered by visible (Vis) light, electricity, or other stimuli. \

The material reacts to light almost instantly, exerting a force corresponding to about 3,000 times its own weight.

Vis activation can be triggered at relatively low intensity to produce high stress and speed similar to mammalian skeletal muscles, while the capability for actuation via electricity means the material can be integrated into existing robotic technology.

One such micro-robot application is a "mini arm" comprised of two hinges of actuating materials, which is capable of lifting an object that is 50 times heavier than itself.

Moreover, the material system does not require additional fabrication processes, and changes in heat and humidity could potentially serve as stimuli, opening up the potential for use in autonomous machines that tap minuscule changes in environmental energy.

From The University of Hong Kong
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