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Sea slug muscle powers this 'biohybrid' robot

Engadget Engadget 19/07/2016 Mariella Moon
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Some scientists make robots inspired by sea slugs. But this team from Case Western Reserve University took a muscle from a real slug and used it to make a biohybrid robot. To be exact, the group took the muscle from around a California sea hare's mouth and attached it to 3D-printed parts. When induced by electrical stimuli, the muscle contracts, causing the hybrid to crawl forward.

They chose sea slugs for this project, because the animals are known for being able to withstand sudden and substantial changes in temperature and salinity. Since the marine invertebrates are tough and can adapt to different conditions, the resulting robots are just as durable and can also operate in harsh environments.

A biohybrid robot can be more capable, perform more tasks and be cheaper to make than purely manmade ones. Someday, organizations could deploy swarms of robots like this to, say, locate the source of toxic leaks or to scour the ocean for a plane's black box. The team has a lot to do before their creation's capable of those tasks, though, such as finding a way to make the slug machine go just a wee bit faster -- their 2-inch robot can only move at a rate of 0.4 centimeters per minute.

Case Western Reserve University

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