Austrian researchers develop edible robotic elephant trunk

The robots are coming, and you may be able to eat them. Researchers at Austria's Johannes Kepler University (JKU) in Linz came up with a robotic elephant trunk made of an edible biodegradable gel that is capable of bending and gripping objects. PhD student at JKU's LIT Soft Materials Lab, Florian Hartmann, explained on Wednesday that they have been focusing for years on «making edible robotics made of soft materials, which is meant to interact with humans, seen the future of robotics.» The researchers displayed the mechanism at the lab, with the robot mimicking the movements of a real elephant's trunk. «When drawing up the concept, sustainability was not the only thing we were particularly concerned about,» said PhD student at JKU's LIT Soft Materials Lab, Melanie Baumgartner. «We made sure that we only use materials that can be found in your kitchen,» such as gelatine, sugar, water or citric acid. «We can achieve an elasticity of over 300 percent, and 300,000 repeated movements in a row,» she explained. The gel could be used «in medical field applications, in the diagnostics or even as children's toys, or everywhere where robots and electronics are used, which are only intended for short term applications.» Researchers believe the gel can be used for making safer toys and easily disposable robots in the medical field.

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