Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a so-called “bio-bot,” a 3D printed, 7-mm long biological machine. Made with hydrogel and rat heart cells, it can walk on its own. The project aims to imitate nature to create more efficient robots that have a variety of applications.
“The idea is that, by being able to design with biological structures, we can harness the power of cells and nature to address challenges facing society,” said Rashid Bashir, the project’s lead researcher. “As engineers, we’ve always built things with hard materials, materials that are very predictable. Yet there are a lot of applications where nature solves a problem in such an elegant way. Can we replicate some of that if we can understand how to put things together with cells?”
The robot has a long thin leg covered with rat heart cells, that rests on another rigid supporting leg. To move, the heart cells beat, causing the leg to pulse, which in turn springs the rest of the body forward. This technology can potentially be applied to medical sensors and toxin clean ups.
Check out the video, above, to see the bio-bot in action.
Image courtesy of Elise A. Corbin, University of Illinois