Recent progress on plant-inspired soft robotics with hydrogel building blocks: Fabrication, actuation and application

Zhenyu Xu, Yongsen Zhou, Baoping Zhang, Chao Zhang, Jianfeng Wang, Zuankai Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Millions of years’ evolution has imparted life on earth with excellent environment adapt-ability. Of particular interest to scientists are some plants capable of macroscopically and reversibly altering their morphological and mechanical properties in response to external stimuli from the surrounding environment. These intriguing natural phenomena and underlying actuation mechanisms have provided important design guidance and principles for man-made soft robotic systems. Constructing bio-inspired soft robotic systems with effective actuation requires the efficient supply of mechanical energy generated from external inputs, such as temperature, light, and electricity. By combining bio-inspired designs with stimuli-responsive materials, various intelligent soft robotic systems that demonstrate promising and exciting results have been developed. As one of the building materials for soft robotics, hydrogels are gaining increasing attention owing to their advantageous properties, such as ultra-tunable modulus, high compliance, varying stimuli-responsiveness, good biocompatibility, and high transparency. In this review article, we summarize the recent progress on plant-inspired soft robotics assembled by stimuli-responsive hydrogels with a particular focus on their actuation mechanisms, fabrication, and application. Meanwhile, some critical challenges and problems associated with current hydrogel-based soft robotics are briefly introduced, and possible solutions are proposed. We expect that this review would provide elementary tutorial guidelines to audiences who are interested in the study on nature-inspired soft robotics, especially hydrogel-based intelligent soft robotic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number608
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive
  • Hydrogel
  • Plant-inspired
  • Soft robotics
  • Stimuli-responsive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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