Tiny robots have muscles of their own…and they’re human!

Remember when robots were the thing of movies and made from metal and nothing else?

Well those days are even further behind us after researchers at one University stumbled upon new technology that lets them embed real muscle cells inside tiny robots.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have developed a new centimetre-long biobot driven by human muscle cells that can be controlled by an electrical field and it provides a level of control that has not been seen before.

“We’re trying to integrate these principles of engineering with biology in a way that can be used to design and develop biological machines and systems for environmental and medical applications. Biology is tremendously powerful, and if we can somehow learn to harness its advantages for useful applications, it could bring about a lot of great things,” stated study leader Rashid Bashier, Abel Bliss Professor and head of bioengineering at the University of Illinois.

Bashier’s team created the structure using a 3D-printed hydrogel backbone and it’s rumoured the technology could one day be used for surgical robots, mobile environment monitoring, industrial cleanup and “programmable tissue engineering”.

The bot is designed to mimic what happens in the muscle-tendon-bone complex in the body and represents the institution’s second foray into using human tissue to power bots.

Its first conquest involved using heart tissue to control a bot though it couldn’t use electric currents to signal when it should move and therefore it moved at the same time every few seconds, a problem it doesn’t have with muscle cells and tendons.