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MAPEX Research Highlights

Living Materials Herald a New Era in Soft Robotics

Appiah, C., Arndt, C., Siemsen, K., Heitmann A., Staubitz A., Selhuber‐Unkel C.

Advanced Materials (2019) 1807747

Living beings have an unsurpassed range of ways to manipulate objects and interact with them. They can make autonomous decisions and can heal themselves. So far, a conventional robot cannot mimic this complexity even remotely. Classical robots are often used to help with lifting and gripping and thus to alleviate the effects of menial tasks. Sensors can render robots responsive, and artificial intelligence aims at enabling autonomous responses. Inanimate soft robots are a step in this direction, but it will only be in combination with living systems that full complexity will be achievable. The field of biohybrid soft robotics provides entirely new concepts to address current challenges, for example the ability to self‐heal, enable a soft touch, or to show situational versatility. Therefore, “living materials” are at the heart of this review. Similarly to biological taxonomy, there is a recent effort for taxonomy of biohybrid soft robotics. Here, an expansion is proposed to take into account not only function and origin of biohybrid soft robotic components, but also the materials. This materials taxonomy key demonstrates visually that materials science will drive the development of the field of soft biohybrid robotics.

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