Will biohybrid robots be the next big revolution in healthcare?
Robots made from metal and plastic are common. We have all seen or heard about them −these nuts-and-bolts robots are made of hard materials. However, with advancement in technology, robots have also been upgraded to safer versions that pose less risk to bruises or bone damage. They are termed as biohybrid robots.As the name suggests, biohybrid is the combination of natural and human made materials.
Scientists around the world are looking for solutions to make robots more compliant like animals. Motors or traditional actuators imply the usage of air muscles in addition to motors. For instance, on a Whegs robot, if the robot collides with a person or thing, the spring would absorb some of the energy to prevent injury to the person. Roomba robot is yet another example of spring-loaded biohybrid robot.
Research and development have taken an altogether different approach as it blends tissue engineering with robotics to develop robots powered by living muscle tissues or cells. The devices are so designed that the cells contract or bend on the passage of electrical signals,enabling the robot to swim or crawl. Biohybrid robots are efficient for locomotion. Biohybrid robots have the added advantage of being eco-friendly, as compared to their mechanical counterparts.
Synonymous to animals, these robots seek nutrients to power their muscles and are light weight too. Researchers develop living cells from the heart or skeletal muscle of animals that are non-toxic. In case the substrate is a polymer, the device so created will be a biohybrid robot.
Researchers demonstrated the steering of biohybrid creations lately at Harvard University, where a group of scholars utilized genetically modified heart cells to make biologically encouraged manta ray-shaped robot to swim underwater.
To put it in nutshell, biohybrid robots are the fresh niche in robotics industry that opens up vast possibilities for large scale robots actuated by muscles.