Light-activated heart cells help guide robotic stingray | Science News

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Light-activated heart cells help guide robotic stingray

Engineering feat could pave way for new artificial organs

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2:00pm, July 7, 2016
robotic stingray

SEE-THROUGH STINGRAY  A tiny robotic stingray with silicone skin and a gold skeleton uses muscles made out of rat heart cells to wiggle its fins. 

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Even robots can use a heart. Or heart cells, at least.

A new stingray bot about the size of a penny relies on light-sensitive heart cells to swim. Zaps with light force the bot’s fins to flutter, letting researchers drive it through a watery obstacle course, Kit Parker of Harvard University and colleagues report in the July 8 Science.

The new work “extends the state of the art — very much so,” says bioengineer Rashid Bashir of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s the next level of sophistication for swimming devices.”

For decades, the field of robotics has been dominated by bulky, rigid machines made mostly of metal or hard plastic. But in recent years, some researchers have turned toward softer, squishier materials, such as silicones and rubbery plastics (

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