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Professor Barry Trimmer

Tufts to Develop Morphing "Chemical Robots"
MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass.
- Scientists at Tufts University have received a $3.3 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop chemical robots that will be so soft and squishy that they will be able to squeeze into spaces as tiny as 1 centimeter, then morph back into something 10 times larger, and ultimately biodegrade.

The advantages of using unmanned devices to conduct dangerous or difficult operations are clear, and the U.S. has invested in such devices for years.  But today's rigid robots, constructed mostly of hard materials, are unable to navigate complex environments with openings of arbitrary size and shape. They are stymied by, say, a building whose only access points may be a crack under a door or a conduit for an electrical cable. 
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Arts, sciences, and engineering faculty members and graduate students discuss ways to control the movements of the soft-body robot. (photo by Melody Ko)

An Interdisciplinary Incubator
By focusing on how animals move, a group of Tufts researchers are changing how we think about (and may one day build) robots.

"Located a half mile from the Tufts Medford campus at 200 Boston Avenue, the Advanced Technology Laboratory acts as an incubator to bring researchers together and speed up the evolution of ideas. Engineers use biological principles to help design and build structures, which in turn give biologists better ways to explain what they observe. Biomimetics, or mimicking nature, specifically in the form of caterpillars, was just such an interdisciplinary problem..."
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