Japan’s University of Electro-Communications’ engineering associate professor, Jun Shintake, is working on edible robots with researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and other institutions. Their new prototype, a drone with rice cracker wings, could be used to quickly deliver emergency rations to those in need, increasing their chances of survival.
The drone’s wings are made of crackers stuck together with gelatin and measure about 70 centimeters across. They contain about 300 calories. The aircraft can also transport approximately 80 grams of water. By weight, roughly half of the drone is edible. The team hopes to eventually increase this to around 75%, more than doubling the total amount of food it can deliver when compared to a standard drone.
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During an outdoor test flight, the drone reached a speed of about 10 meters per second, and the wings did not crack. The team hopes to improve durability and flight time further in order to commercialize the technology. Edible robots could also be useful in factories. Shintake’s team created a pneumatic robotic arm that bends like human fingers out of gelatin and glycerin.
A mold can be used to easily produce the arms. The prototype is roughly the same strength as silicone rubber. Using an edible robot to process food could reduce the risk of metal fragments and other hazardous materials ending up in products. “Using edible materials is safer,” Shintake said. The team has also created a method for moving food-based materials using electricity by mixing salt into gelatin, which can then be used as an electrode. The technology could allow for the creation of smaller edible robots than would be possible with pneumatics.
source: Asia Nikkei