Hundreds turned out to the University of Wollongong’s Big Ideas festival on Tuesday, to witness some of the clever inventions and developments from the institution, including a 3D-printed circuit made out of vegemite.
Professor Marc in het Panhuis from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science has been developing edible electronics with a view to utilising them for search and rescue operations.
He used a special printer to demonstrate his research, showing the popular spread could be made to conduct electricity and light up an LED bulb.
Aeroplane Jelly was also used in the real-time experiment, which the professor said had exactly the sort of properties that could be of great use in the future to assist finding survivors in natural disasters.
‘‘People get trapped under buildings or under rubble in earthquakes,’’ he said.
‘‘The human body under normal circumstances can last about 100 hours without water. What I want to develop is jelly robots that can go in and squeeze themselves through small holes ... to look and search for humans. Once the robot gets to them they can use it to communicate because it has jelly or vegemite electrodes, send the signal and then they can eat the robot and increase their survival chances.’’
The big idea is still quite a while off from becoming reality, however Prof Panhuis said they had made the electrodes and were now busy developing the materials and how to power the robots.
Both 3D and 4D printing on the other hand are very real, and are already changing lives.
Prof Panhuis explained how a child born with a collapsed windpipe in the US, was now able to run around and play as normal thanks to a customised implant printed to open up his trachea.