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.
Authors: Kyle B Justus, Tess Hellebrekers, Daniel D Lewis, Adam Wood, Christian Ingham, Carmel Majidi, Philip R LeDuc, Cheemeng Tan
; Full Source: Science robotics 2019 Jun 26;4(31):eaax0765. doi: 10.1126/scirobotics.aax0765.