Biomimetic Robots

Novel Method Developed for Quick Fabrication of Biomimetic Robots with Life-like Movement


Biomimetic robots, which imitate the biological functions and movements of living organisms, hold great promise for the field of robotics. These robots not only offer the potential for more efficient performance but also provide insights into muscle biology.

One key component of biomimetic robots is the use of biohybrid actuators, which are composed of soft materials and muscular cells that can mimic the forces exerted by biological muscles. These actuators have the ability to achieve life-like movements and functions, including self-repair, high efficiency, and a high power-to-weight ratio, characteristics that have been challenging to replicate in traditional bulky robots.

To achieve these lifelike movements, researchers have been focusing on arranging muscle cells in biohybrid actuators in an anisotropic manner. By aligning muscle cells in specific patterns that replicate the orientation found in natural organisms, researchers aim to achieve more complex movements akin to those seen in native muscle tissues.

While previous studies have achieved significant movement in biohybrid actuators using anisotropic alignment of muscle cells, these studies mostly focused on aligning muscle cells in a straight line, resulting in simple motions. However, native muscle tissues exhibit complex movements such as twisting, bending, and shrinking, which require a more intricate cellular arrangement, including curved and helical patterns.

To address this challenge, a team of researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology has developed a novel method for fabricating complex microstructures using an ultraviolet (UV) laser-processing technique. This technique allows for the rapid fabrication of curved microgrooves (MGs) on a substrate, which serve as guides for aligning muscle cells in the desired patterns.

The researchers hypothesized that by using UV-laser processing to create arbitrary anisotropic MGs on a hard rubber thin film, they could control cellular alignment in a more flexible and life-like manner. This innovative approach has been detailed in their study published in the journal Biofabrication.

The novel technique involves forming curved MGs on a polyimide substrate through UV-laser processing, which are then transposed onto a thin film made of hard rubber. Muscle cells called myotubes are then aligned using these MG patterns to achieve an anisotropic curved muscle pattern.

By applying this method, the researchers developed two biohybrid actuators, one tethered to a glass substrate and the other untethered. Upon electrical stimulation, both actuators exhibited twisting-like motions. Remarkably, the untethered biohybrid actuator transformed into a 3D free-standing structure, demonstrating the potential for complex movements akin to native muscle tissues.

The results of this study highlight the efficacy of UV-laser processing for fabricating tunable MG patterns quickly and easily. This method opens up new possibilities for creating more life-like biohybrid actuators through guided alignment of muscle cells. The research paves the way for the development of biohybrid actuators capable of achieving complex and flexible movements, with implications for various applications in the field of robotics.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
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