Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
    Researchers Develop Self-Destructing Soft Robots for Sustainable Robotics

    Researchers at Seoul National University have made significant progress in the development of robots capable of controlling their own life-cycles. These robots are designed to self-destruct using internal ultraviolet (UV) LEDs that destabilize their chemical composition, causing them to melt into an oily liquid residue.

    The 3 centimeter (1.2 inch) long robot bodies are composed of a silicone resin mixed with diphenyliodonium hexafluorophosphate. This combination of materials allows the robots to remain tough yet flexible enough for complex movements. Unlike conventional robots, these soft robots have advanced functional adaptability and the ability to perform delicate tasks, such as handling vulnerable objects or adapting to uncertain environments.

    The potential applications for these self-destructing robots are vast. They could be used to deliver drugs to specific targets in hard-to-reach corners of the human body, navigate disaster zones, or explore the depths of the ocean. The soft robots have been equipped with strain, temperature, and UV sensors, enabling them to perform reconnaissance missions.

    During a test mission, the soft robot was able to approach a gun, take its temperature, and retreat to a safe position to report its findings before initiating self-destruction. When exposed to UV light, the diphenyliodonium hexafluorophosphate within the robot converts into fluoride, weakening the structure and ultimately causing it to melt. The remaining residue contains potentially toxic fluoride ions, prompting the researchers to add a calcium chloride compound to neutralize them.

    The concept of “death” and “disposal” of soft robots after their operational lifetime is gaining attention in the quest for sustainable robotics. The researchers acknowledge the need for further work to improve the environmental impact of the residue left behind by these self-destructing robots.

    In conclusion, the development of self-destructing soft robots represents a significant advancement in creating robots capable of controlling their own life-cycles. This technology has the potential to revolutionize various industries and improve the sustainability of future robotic systems.

    – Oh et al., Science Advances, 2023