Soft robots are usually adaptable and versatile which can mimic natural movements and behaviors. However, the ability to self-destruct has been unexplored until now. A group of researchers, from Seoul National University, has developed soft robots that can self-destruct and dissolve into residue, leaving minimal traces behind. It is a significant advancement in the robotic field.
The researchers reportedly spent two years working on flexible materials that could uphold a fully operational robot but can also disintegrate when specific substances interact. Such a feature could allow these robots to dissolve into a liquid state and, in effect, disappear after completing a task.
Thus, this new technology can be used in military operations for intelligence gathering. These soft robots, which can be used for surveillance, scouting, and transport missions, can protect sensitive data integrated into them. Enabling them to undergo self-destruction reduces the likelihood of critical data falling into the hands of adversaries or unauthorized individuals.
These robots can also be used for delicate tasks like search missions in dangerous or unreachable areas, where retrieval could be challenging or expensive.
Previous soft robots made with thermoset silicone elastomer faced obstacles to self-destruct. The material's resistance to heat, acids, and chemicals made it unacceptable for self-demolition. On the other hand, thermoplastic elastomers could be melted, but they could reconstruct themselves as polyurethane. To overcome these challenges, the Korean researchers worked on a substance to silicone resin that, when exposed to UV light, releases fluoride ions.
The robot starts disintegrating when researchers trigger built-in UV LEDs to initiate the heating process. Within less than two hours, the robot decomposes, leaving behind an oily liquid residue.
"We fabricated a highly deformable and fully degradable gaiting robot and demonstrated it in a hypothetical scouting scenario," Min-Ha Oh, a graduate student at Seoul National University who contributed to the project, noted.
According to techtimes.com