Diederik S. Wiersma, Hao Zeng, Arri Priimagi, Piotr Wasylczyk
For decades, roboticists have focused their efforts on rigid systems that enable programmable, automated action, and sophisticated control with maximal movement precision and speed. Meanwhile, material scientists have sought compounds and fabrication strategies to devise polymeric actuators that are small, soft, adaptive, and stimuli-responsive. Merging these two fields has given birth to a new class of devices—soft microrobots that, by combining concepts from microrobotics and stimuli-responsive materials research, provide several advantages in a miniature form: external, remotely controllable power supply, adaptive motion, and human-friendly interaction, with device design and action often inspired by biological systems. Herein, recent progress in soft microrobotics is highlighted based on light-responsive liquid-crystal elastomers and polymer networks, focusing on photomobile devices such as walkers, swimmers, and mechanical oscillators, which may ultimately lead to flying microrobots. Finally, self-regulated actuation is proposed as a new pathway toward fully autonomous, intelligent light robots of the future.
Light-controlled soft microrobotics is a nascent field that explores technologies bridging the gap between microrobotics and polymeric artificial muscles. Recent progress in photomobile devices based on liquid-crystal elastomers is highlighted, such as walkers, swimmers, and oscillators, which may ultimately lead to flying microrobots. Self-regulating mechanisms are introduced as a potential route toward intelligent, light-driven microrobotics.