Researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China developed a new robot that's made by layering a polyethylene film onto a glass layer and an adding a layer of graphene that is used to convert photothermal energy from infra red light. The robot can pick, move and drop objects. Such a design may be useful for surgery, for example. It can also inspire the design of transparent artificial muscles.
The team prepared the actuator by layering a polyethylene film onto a glass layer. On top of this, they added a graphene layer, which can absorb infrared light and convert this energy into heat with a high efficiency. The graphene - a sheet of carbon atoms one atom thick - also combines high transparency with strong mechanical performance. A strip of graphene on polyethylene that was 3mm by 12mm was then cut out and peeled off the glass, after which the strip curled up.
The team found that the strip uncurled in the presence of infrared light so switching the IR light on and off transformed the strip into a moving robot. The team demonstrated that their robot could pick up a small round object, move it and drop it into a container. They placed the uncurled strip above the object and turned the infrared light on, making the strip curl around the object. With the object in its grip, the strip was moved to a container, the infrared light was switched off, and the strip uncurled to drop its cargo.