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Proceedings Paper

Here today, gone tomorrow: biodegradable soft robots
Author(s): Jonathan Rossiter; Jonathan Winfield; Ioannis Ieropoulos
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Paper Abstract

One of the greatest challenges to modern technologies is what to do with them when they go irreparably wrong or come to the end of their productive lives. The convention, since the development of modern civilisation, is to discard a broken item and then procure a new one. In the 20th century enlightened environmentalists campaigned for recycling and reuse (R and R). R and R has continued to be an important part of new technology development, but there is still a huge problem of non-recyclable materials being dumped into landfill and being discarded in the environment. The challenge is even greater for robotics, a field which will impact on all aspects of our lives, where discards include motors, rigid elements and toxic power supplies and batteries. One novel solution is the biodegradable robot, an active physical machine that is composed of biodegradable materials and which degrades to nothing when released into the environment. In this paper we examine the potential and realities of biodegradable robotics, consider novel solutions to core components such as sensors, actuators and energy scavenging, and give examples of biodegradable robotics fabricated from everyday, and not so common, biodegradable electroactive materials. The realisation of truly biodegradable robots also brings entirely new deployment, exploration and bio-remediation capabilities: why track and recover a few large non-biodegradable robots when you could speculatively release millions of biodegradable robots instead? We will consider some of these exciting developments and explore the future of this new field.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 April 2016
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 9798, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2016, 97981S (15 April 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2220611
Show Author Affiliations
Jonathan Rossiter, Univ. of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Jonathan Winfield, Univ. of the West of England (United Kingdom)
Bristol Robotics Lab. (United Kingdom)
Ioannis Ieropoulos, Univ. of the West of England (United Kingdom)
Bristol Robotics Lab. (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9798:
Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2016
Yoseph Bar-Cohen; Frédéric Vidal, Editor(s)

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