Miniature robots that imitate microscopic organisms could one day wriggle inside the human body to solve problems, researchers say. The soft, active materials comprising these machines might also lead to clothing that enhances muscle power.
Modern robots are generally built from rigid parts, which causes them to be vulnerable to damage from bumps, scrapes, twists and falls, and often makes it impossible to wriggle past obstacles. But researchers inspired by octopuses, worms and starfish that thrive despite not having hard skeletons are devising flexible robots from soft, elastic plastic and rubber. These can squirm under obstacles, lift up to 120 times their own weight and change their color to hide in or stand out from their surroundings.
As the work behind soft robots gets more mature, some engineers are also starting to explore the possibility of making them smaller. The hope is that such microrobots could play a role in healthcare — for instance, delivering medicine directly to where the body needs it, reopening clogged blood vessels or helping to seal wounds.
There has been a huge increase in bedbug infestations – in homes, hotels, dorm rooms and even movie theaters. Once a pest of the past, bedbugs now infest every state in the U.S. Many bedbugs are now resistant to pesticides, so getting rid of these pests is neither easy nor cheap.
Now microbiologists are using a fungus called Beauveria bassiana, a natural organism that causes disease in insects, against these blood-sucking pests.
It’s hard to imagine an environment where instant and clear communication is more critical than in biodefense labs dealing with the most lethal pathogens on Earth. And yet, these facilities, which are few in number and rich in potential nightmares, often require researchers to tap on each other’s shoulders and shout in order to be heard.
It is so difficult for scientists to talk to one another because they work in heavy, cumbersome, noisy suits designed to protect them. Air pumped into these suits hisses at up to 85 decibels, nearly the same noise level produced by a passenger train approaching a station. Also, wireless telecommunication signals don’t move easily through facilities used for handling the worst infectious diseases because they have thick concrete walls, steel doors and special plumbing and ventilation designed to stop absolutely anything from entering or escaping.