Embodied Intelligence: Generating Electricity with Heat

Imagine yourself holding a glop of silly putty. It is soft, and playfully grasps you as it shapes with your movements and suddenly, pop! It transfixes into into a glove. Embodied intelligence serves as the new space open for development in robotics and material sciences, where materials the material is the machine, behaving as interconnected human cells and muscles do.


The major core of embodied intelligence stems from pyroelectric materials and their ability to convert heat into electricity. Most components that convert other forms of energy to electricity tend to be either corrosive or solid, so the quest for embodied intelligence comes from examining live organisms.


While all animals are sensitive to heat and all cells have an electrical charge from ion transport, specific organisms of interest are ones with hypersensitivity either sensitivity to heat or those with the ability to maintain electrical polarity across their cells. Examples of snakes that are able to detect animals up to 40 centimeters away in half a second in darkness and algal cells that can contain high polarity of charges across their cell walls serve as organisms that can pioneer new ideas.


While we’re still a long way off from reactive silly putty that can transform into superhero suits, the creation of malleable single-celled electrically conducting units gives rise to a new wave of applications. Instances include computational wearables such as computers or devices, self-healing robots, fashion, and artificial muscles for prosthetic and tactile sensations.

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