Soft robotics controlled remotely by chains of magnetic nanoparticles

12/27/2015 - 18:27

Matt Shipman

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique for using chains of magnetic nanoparticles to manipulate elastic polymers in three dimensions, which could be used to remotely control new “soft robots.”

The ability to control the motion of soft robots, coupled with their flexibility, gives them potential applications ranging from biomedical technologies to manufacturing processes. Researchers are interested in using magnetic fields to control the movement of these soft robots because it can be done remotely – the control can be exerted without physically connecting to the polymer – and because magnetic fields are easily obtained from permanent magnets and electromagnets.


Ref: Selective and directional actuation of elastomer films using chained magnetic nanoparticles. Nanoscale (26 November 2015) | DOI: 10.1039/C5NR07410J


We report selective and directional actuation of elastomer films utilizing magnetic anisotropy introduced by chains of Fe3O4 magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs). Under uniform magnetic fields or field gradients, dipolar interactions between the MNPs favor magnetization along the chain direction and cause selective lifting. This mechanism is described using a simple model.