The science of prosthetics has been advancing by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and research into soft robotics has been especially complementary. The same techniques that go into making a robot arm that flexes and turns like a real one can go into making more complex, subtle organs — like the heart, as Swiss researchers have demonstrated.
One problem with artificial hearts is that metal and plastic mechanisms can be difficult to integrate with tissue, or damage the blood because of their unnatural movement style.
A small team at ETH, led by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs, has created what they say is the first artificial heart that’s entirely soft, with its pumping mechanism achieved by causing the silicone ventricles to pump just like a real heart.
Well, not exactly like a real heart — in-between the ventricles isn’t just a wall but a …