For the first time, researchers at Seoul National University have developed an electro-osmosis-based hydrogel actuator that is both more powerful and more efficient. They discuss their method and the success of their actuator in a study published in the scientific publication, Science. In a Perspective piece published in the same journal issue, Zhen Jiang and Pingan Song, from the University of Southern Queensland, discuss some of the challenges researchers have had in creating hydrogels that replicate biological creatures.
These water-based gels go by the moniker of “hydrogels.” Since then, roboticists have been paying particular attention to them An ultimate objective is to develop soft actuators, which are malleable parts that can interact in desirable ways. The actuator must be able to transfer energy into mechanical work in some way analogous to human muscles in order to be successful. Scientists hope to improve their actuation forces and response times in order to make these devices more helpful in the future. The researchers have gone another step toward attaining both objectives in their current endeavour.
The hydrogel was made using usual methods, but it was wrapped in a highly osmotic and rigid material. ” The rigidity of the turgor cell-like structure was intended to contain a swelling environment. As a result, adjacent objects were subjected to a force due to the buildup of pressure. Tests on the cell indicated that it could fracture a standard construction brick with 730 N of force. Such a force was nearly 1,000 times larger than any hydrogel that has ever been studied before. The researchers also introduced an electric current, which increased the actuation speed by 19 times its typical osmotic rate.