Muscle-Powered Two-Legged Robot: In a groundbreaking development, Japanese researchers have designed a two-legged biohybrid robot that draws inspiration from the flexibility and fine movements of the human body. This innovative creation, described in the journal Matter on January 26, combines muscle tissues with artificial materials, allowing the robot to walk and pivot.
Lead author Shoji Takeuchi from the University of Tokyo highlights the emerging field of biohybrid robotics, emphasizing the fusion of biology and mechanics. Using muscle as actuators, the researchers achieved a compact robot with efficient, silent movements and a soft touch.
The bipedal design of the robot builds upon the legacy of biohybrid robots that utilize muscles for crawling and swimming but face challenges in making sharp turns. Recognizing the importance of pivoting for obstacle avoidance, the research team crafted a biohybrid robot that mimics human gait and operates effectively in water.
The robot features a foam buoy top and weighted legs to maintain stability underwater. Its skeleton, primarily composed of flexible silicone rubber, adapts to muscle movements. Lab-grown skeletal muscle tissues are attached to the silicone rubber, enabling the robot to imitate walking when stimulated by electricity.
By alternating electric stimulation between the left and right legs, the biohybrid robot achieved a walking speed of 5.4 mm/min (0.002 mph) and executed a precise 90-degree turn in 62 seconds. The researchers aim to enhance efficiency by integrating electrodes into the robot for a more automated electric field application.
While planning future upgrades to incorporate joints and thicker muscle tissues for sophisticated movements, the team acknowledges the need to develop a nutrient supply system to sustain living tissues. This crucial step precedes further integration of biological components and ensures the robot’s viability in both water and air environments.
Takeuchi expresses the team’s excitement over the robot’s successful movements, emphasizing the significant progress made in the realm of biohybrid robots. The project received support from JST-Mirai Program, JST Fusion Oriented Research for disruptive Science and Technology, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. As the researchers celebrate these initial strides, they anticipate future breakthroughs in creating more advanced and capable biohybrid robots.