Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) hydrogel for diving/surfacing device
Underwater robots and vehicles have received great attention due to their potential applications in remote sensing and search and rescue. A challenge for micro aquatic robots is the lack of small motors needed for three-dimensional locomotion in water. Here, we show a simple diving and surfacing device fabricated from thermo-sensitive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) or a poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-containing hydrogel. The poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-containing device exhibited fast and reversible diving/surfacing cycles in response to changing temperature. Modulation of the interaction between poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) chains and water molecules at temperatures above or below the lower critical solution temperature regulates the gel density through the swelling and de-swelling. The gel surfaced in water when heated and sank when cooled. We further showed reversible diving/surfacing cycles of the device when exposed to electrical and ultrasonic stimuli. Finally, a small electrically heated gel was incorporated into a miniature submarine and used to control the diving depth. These results suggest that the poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-containing device has good potential for underwater remote-controlled micro aquatic robots.
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Australian Research Council