Unleashing Nanoparticles Power: Propelling an Aquabot using a Porous Hydrogel

Nanoparticles in a porous Hydrogel propelling an Aquabot with minimal voltage
A team of researchers at Korea University, Ajou University, and Hanyang University in the Republic of Korea has developed a tiny aquabot powered by fins that are made of porous hydrogel infused with nanoparticles. The group published a paper in Science Robotics that describes how hydrogel powers a small boat, and how much voltage is required.

Scientists and engineers are working on building tiny, soft robots to be used in medical applications. They have discovered that hydrogels work well for this task. Unfortunately, such materials also have undesirable characteristics, most notably, poor electro-connectivity. Researchers have taken a different approach in this effort to make hydrogels better suited for electricity as a source of power — adding conductive nanoparticles.

In the work, a small amount of nanoparticles were added to a portion of a porous Hydrogel. This part was then used as an actuator for wrinkled nanomembrane membrane electrodes (WNE). The nanoparticles made the hydrogel conduct electricity reliably. The actuator was powered by as little as three volts. Researchers attached two actuators to a small plastic body and shaped them into fin-like shapes. The fins were powered by electronics that were added to the body. The robot resembled a water bug, floating in the tank water.