When you think of a robot, images of R2-D2 or C-3PO might come to mind. But robots can serve up more than just entertainment on the big screen. In a lab, for example, robotic systems can improve safety and efficiency by performing repetitive tasks and handling harsh chemicals.
But before a robot can get to work, it needs energy -- typically from electricity or a battery. Yet even the most sophisticated robot can run out of juice. For many years, scientists have wanted to make a robot that can work autonomously and continuously, without electrical input.
Now, as reported last week in the journal Nature Chemistry, scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have demonstrated just that -- through "water-walking" liquid robots that, like tiny submarines, dive below water to retrieve precious chemicals, and then surface to deliver chemicals "ashore" again and again.
The technology is the first self-powered, aqueous robot that runs continuously without electricity. It has potential as an automated chemical synthesis or drug delivery system for pharmaceuticals.
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