Edible robots made from gelatin may soon get to work in your intestinal tract

Researchers from Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland shared new work this week on a tiny edible and digestible robotic actuator made of gelatin. The research was led by graduate student Jun Shintake.

Actuators are the components in machines that are responsible for movement. But unlike the typical metal joinery that’s powered by a motor, these edible gelatin actuators are filled with air or fluid or react to chemicals, which cause them to move.

Combining these actuators with other advancements in edible electronics — batteries that can safely pass through a digestive tract, or chips and cameras that are already on the market that can be ingested — could one day make for a fully edible robot, the researchers from EPFL told Recode.

These robots may be used to deliver medicines in the intestinal tract or move around to help provide stability where needed, said Dario Floreano, the professor who oversees the Intelligent Systems Laboratory.