Research ArticleSOFT ROBOTS

A biosensing soft robot: Autonomous parsing of chemical signals through integrated organic and inorganic interfaces

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Science Robotics  26 Jun 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 31, eaax0765
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aax0765


The integration of synthetic biology and soft robotics can fundamentally advance sensory, diagnostic, and therapeutic functionality of bioinspired machines. However, such integration is currently impeded by the lack of soft-matter architectures that interface synthetic cells with electronics and actuators for controlled stimulation and response during robotic operation. Here, we synthesized a soft gripper that uses engineered bacteria for detecting chemicals in the environment, a flexible light-emitting diode (LED) circuit for converting biological to electronic signals, and soft pneu-net actuators for converting the electronic signals to movement of the gripper. We show that the hybrid bio-LED-actuator module enabled the gripper to detect chemical signals by applying pressure and releasing the contents of a chemical-infused hydrogel. The biohybrid gripper used chemical sensing and feedback to make actionable decisions during a pick-and-place operation. This work opens previously unidentified avenues in soft materials, synthetic biology, and integrated interfacial robotic systems.

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