A team at Case Western Reserve University has built a moving robot made from the muscle of a California sea slug and flexible 3d printing material, with serious implications for oceanic research.
At just under 5 cm long, PhD student Victoria Webster and her colleagues chose the sea slug's muscle because they wanted their robot to move with pliability and be adaptable to changes in temperature and pressure - all variables that the sea slug's muscle is capable of achieving.
They then 3d printed the outer body out of flexible polymers, and when an external electrical current is applied to the 3d printed sea slug robot, it moves as the muscle expands and contracts.
So why is this research helpful?
As we survey our oceans and waters for changes to ecosystems and pollution in the decades to come, it would be preferable to do so with organic robots made from existing sea creatures, instead of the ihghly chemical and metallic ones we use now.
"They’re likely to be inexpensive and won’t pollute the location with metals and battery chemicals but be eaten or degrade into compost," said a statement from Case Western.