Researchers Create a Robot Heart

The rubbery, deformable pump acts like a circulatory system to power a robot’s limbs

Scientists have created a Robotic Heart
A rubber, deformed pump acts as a circulation system to drive the robot’s arms
Cooperation between the U.S. Researchers at the Army Research Laboratory and Cornell University has seen the development of a new, flexible “heart” for soft robots. The pump-like device uses magnetic and hydrodynamic forces that work to move energy around the robot’s body, much like a human or animal heart moves blood.

The new breakthrough was revealed in a paper published this month in the journal PNAS.

Previous attempts to build a robotic heart have struggled to find the right materials and minimize power consumption, with electronic pumps too large and cumbersome to operate in a robotic body, leading to losses in cost and efficiency.

“These distributed soft pumps work more like human hearts and arteries that deliver blood,” said Rob Shepherd, lead researcher on the Cornell team. “We have robotic blood that we released from our group, and now we have robotic hearts. The combination of the two will create more living machines.”

The researchers’ new type of pump is made of silicone and coils of wire, with a solid core magnet in the center surrounded by a magnetorheological fluid – a substance that hardens when exposed to a magnetic field. As such, users can move the core magnet back and forth by adjusting the magnetic field to be applied, using this action to pump liquids through the robot.

When testing the new pump system, the researchers demonstrated its ability to maintain continuous output even with different heart shapes, meaning the pump can be adapted to different robots and unique requirements.