Existing robotic technologies are mostly based on mechatronic hardware principles -- i.e. the robots are mechanical "machines" controlled by electronics. Although the miniaturisation of such systems is possible in principle using MEMS technology, an alternative approach is also being pursued. The aim of our work is do design, fabricate and demonstrate the functionality of the so-called chemical robots, i.e. robots based on soft colloidal matter and functioning on the basis of chemical rather than mechatronic principles. Taking inspiration from naturally occurring single cell organisms (protozoa, bacteria, diatoms), a chemical microrobot is defined as an internally structured vesicle in the size range of 10-100 um, with the ability to uptake, store, chemically process and release molecules as function of external stimuli, reversibly attach to target surfaces, and freely move in its (fluid) environment. The ability to act collectively (swarming) and to communicate by extracellular chemical signalling is also required. In this talk, we will present the prototypes of such chemical microrobots, describe their operational principles, methods of fabrication, and functional tests related to controlled release of a chemical payload, distributed chemical processing, and selective adhesion to both artificial and biological surfaces. Future developments and perspectives of chemical robots, including hybrid chemo-mechatronic systems, will be discussed.
chemical robotics, soft robotics, chemical signaling, controlled release, chemotaxis, reversible aggregation