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The Good News
2017 February/March
Pg 4 - The Sunshine Express
As hydrogels are mostly composed of water, he
says, they are naturally safer to use in a biomedi-
cal setting. And while others have attempted to
fashion robots out of hydrogels, their solutions have
resulted in brittle, relatively inflexible materials that
crack or burst with repeated use.
In contrast, Zhao¡¯s group found its formulations
leant themselves well to soft robotics.
¡°We didn¡¯t think of this kind of [soft robotics]
project initially, but realized maybe our expertise
can be crucial to translating these jellies as robust
actuators and robotic structures,¡± Yuk says.
Fast and forceful
To apply their hydrogel materials to soft robotics,
the researchers first looked to the animal world.
They concentrated in particular on leptocephali, or
glass eels ¡ª tiny, transparent, hydrogel-like eel lar-
vae that hatch in the ocean and eventually migrate
to their natural river habitats.
¡°It is extremely long travel, and there is no means
of protection,¡± Yuk says. ¡°It seems they tried to
evolve into a transparent form as an efficient cam-
ouflage tactic. And we wanted to achieve a similar
level of transparency, force, and speed.¡±
To do so, Yuk and Zhao used 3-D printing and laser
cutting techniques to print their hydrogel recipes
into robotic structures and other hollow units, which
they bonded to small, rubbery tubes that are con-
nected to external pumps.
To actuate, or move, the structures, the team used
syringe pumps to inject water through the hollow
structures, enabling them to quickly curl or stretch,
depending on the overall configuration of the ro-
Yuk and Zhao found that by pumping water in, they
could produce fast, forceful reactions, enabling a
hydrogel robot to generate a few newtons of force
in one second. For perspective, other researchers
have activated similar hydrogel robots by simple
osmosis, letting water naturally seep into structures
¡ª a slow process that creates millinewton forces
over several minutes or hours.
Catch and release
In experiments using several hydrogel robot de-
signs, the team found the structures were able to
withstand repeated use of up to 1,000 cycles with-
out rupturing or tearing. They also found that each
design, placed underwater against colored back-
grounds, appeared almost entirely camouflaged.
The group measured the acoustic and optical
Hydrogel Robots (continued from pg3)
applications for hydrogel robotics, as well as
tailor their recipes to particular uses. For ex-
ample, medical applications might not require
completely transparent structures, while other
applications may need certain parts of a robot to
be stiffer than others.
¡°We want to pinpoint a realistic application and
optimize the material to achieve something im-
pactful,¡± Yuk says. ¡°To our best knowledge, this
is the first demonstration of hydrogel pressure-
based acutuation. We are now tossing this con-
cept out as an open question, to say, ¡®Let¡¯s play
with this.¡¯¡±
This research was supported, in part, by the
Office of Naval Research, the MIT Institute for
Soldier Nanotechnologies, and the National Sci-
ence Foundation.
Are you looking for a great way to impress
your sweetheart? Hire a barbershop quartet
from the Bookcliff Barbershop Harmony Cho-
rus to serenade your loved ones on Valen-
tine¡¯s Day. Quartets will be delivering a cap-
pella Singing Valentines from Palisade to Mack
from 8a-8p, February 13-14. The quartets will
go anywhere in the area dressed in tuxedos
to impress, and will serenade any woman or
man or several people with two love songs.
In addition the quartets present a red rose, a
small box of Enstrom¡¯s candy, and a card with
a personalized message and will pose with the
recipient for a keepsake photo.
Call 970.257.SONG[7664] to order.
The Gift Of Song
* Energy-efficient windows and doors
* Skylights and solar-powered blinds
* Wood or wood-pellet stoves
* Home wind turbines
Manufacturer rebates and incentives
Makers of energy-efficient products and appli-
ances often offer their own rebates to home-
owners for making eco-friendly upgrades. If
you¡¯re considering an energy-efficient up-
grade such as installing new windows, HVAC
system or tankless water heater, be sure to
ask the retailer or installer about any avail-
able manufacturer¡¯s rebates.
For example, now through at least Feb. 15,
2017, you can get up to a $650 rebate on
select tankless water heaters from Noritz. The
average American household spends nearly
18 percent of its energy use on heating water,
at a cost of $200-$600 per year, according to
the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Tankless water heaters are more energy-effi-
cient because they only heat water when you
need it, rather than constantly consuming fuel
to keep water hot in a tank. To learn more
about tankless water heaters and the rebate
Federal tax credits
Although many tax credits for energy-efficient
home improvements expired at the end
of 2016, some are still available. The fed-
eral government offers a tax credit of up to
30 percent for home solar energy systems
through Dec. 31, 2019, and there¡¯s no upper
limit on the credit according to EnergyStar.
If you¡¯ll be making energy-efficient home
improvements, be sure to talk to your pro-
fessional tax preparer about any credits or
deductions that may be available to you from
the federal government.
State-level programs
In addition to federal programs, a number of
states offer their own incentives to encour-
age homeowners to make energy-efficient
improvements. For example, Alabama al-
lows homeowners to deduct 100 percent of
the purchase price and installation costs of a
wood-burning heating system. In Minnesota,
homeowners can borrow up to $20,000 at
4.99 percent interest to make energy-efficient
improvements such as water heaters, lighting,
furnaces, air conditioners, insulation, win-
dows, tankless water heaters and more.
You can find a searchable Database of State
Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at:
Utility company incentives
Many utility companies also offer programs
designed to help homeowners reduce en-
ergy consumption and save money. Typical
programs include free LED or CFL bulbs to
replace incandescent bulbs in a home, and
rebates or discounts for installing energy-
efficient HVAC equipment or programmable
The best way to find out what programs your
local utility offers is to check out their website
or give them a call. You can also find state-
specific lists of programs at: www.dsireusa.
Energy-efficient home improvements pay off
over the long-term by reducing your home¡¯s
energy consumption and utility bills. With a
little bit of planning and legwork, you can also
find rebates, tax credits and incentive pro-
grams that will also repay your eco-friendly
investment right away. To learn more visit:,,, and
properties of the hydrogel robots, and found
them to be nearly equal to that of water, un-
like rubber and other commonly used materi-
als in soft robotics.
In a striking demonstration of the technol-
ogy, the team fabricated a hand-like robotic
gripper and pumped water in and out of its
¡°fingers¡± to make the hand open and close.
The researchers submerged the gripper in a
tank with a goldfish and showed that as the
fish swam past, the gripper was strong and
fast enough to close around the fish.
¡°[The robot] is almost transparent, very hard
to see,¡± Zhao says. ¡°When you release the
fish, it¡¯s quite happy because [the robot] is
soft and doesn¡¯t damage the fish. Imagine a
hard robotic hand would probably squash the
Next, the researchers plan to identify specific
Where to find rebates, tax credits
and rewards for energy-efficient
home improvements
(BPT) If you¡¯re planning to make some home
improvements this year, you¡¯re probably think-
ing about energy-efficient options, knowing they
can save you money in the long run. However,
many eco-friendly home improvements that help
lower your energy bills can also pay off right
away in the form of rebates and tax credits.
Whether you¡¯re considering installing an energy-
efficient tankless water heater, putting solar
panels on your house, or adding a skylight,
chances are you can find a program that will
put cash back in your pocket for improving your
home¡¯s energy efficiency. Here is where to look
for rebates, tax credits and rewards for your
energy-efficient home improvements.
Qualifying improvements
When you think of energy efficiency, insulation
and appliances probably come to mind. But a
number of improvements can help reduce your
home¡¯s energy consumption, and many of them
qualify for tax credits, rebates and incentives
from a variety of sources. The kind of improve-
ments that can make your home more efficient
and get you some cash back typically include:
* Solar energy systems (such as solar panels)
* Tankless water heaters
* Solar-powered appliances
Incentive Programs Available