Scientists pushing the limits of soft robotics continue to find inspiration in the animal kingdom, with the latest examples moving like inchworms and earthworms deploying several new sensing technologies. The new stretchy robots use flexible electronics and advanced sensors to recognize their own body position, which can help them navigate confined spaces.
We’ve seen some soft robots inspired by worms and other creepy crawlies, such as the Meshworm that uses artificial muscles to crawl across the floor, and more recently, a robot that digs deep into the ground to crawl through the floor. Soil analysis for agricultural applications. The latest product is powered by engineers at the University of Glasgow, and makes a new breakthrough by mimicking what is known as initiation, or the ability of an organism to sense its place in the body. spatial.
According to the researchers, this ability has never been demonstrated in a soft robot before, and enabling it forces them to be creative in piecing together the necessary electronics and sensors. The robot’s outer “skin” is made of a stretchy plastic called Ecoflex and a new type of graphite glue developed by the research team, with tiny magnets embedded at the ends of the body about four feet long. .5 cm (1.7 in).
Graphite glue carries resistance, which changes as the robot’s body expands, and strain sensors built into the body can measure these changes and detect when it reaches a preset value. In doing so, the robot’s body will contract to move the robot forward along the metal surface. This has been applied to an earthworm-like robot that can bend and flatten to move forward, and an earthworm-like robot that remains flat on the floor while stretching and contracting.
Lead researcher Professor Ravinder Dahiya said: “The ability to self-identify is an important property of many biological life forms, and scientists have long been inspired to try and develop systems that are engineered design that mimics this ability. , flexible robotic systems capable of following the infinite directions of movement that nature has created in inchworms and earthworms. The ability of soft robots like these to adapt to their surroundings through seamlessly embedded stretchable sensors could help autonomous robots navigate more efficiently in even the most challenging environments. . “
Scientists imagine that one day, worm-inspired robots will be used in search and rescue operations, helping to find survivors buried in the rubble, for example. They can also be put to use in mining and construction applications, or form the basis of more lifelike prostheses.
The study was published in the journal Advanced intelligent system, while you can see the robots in action in the video below.
Bioinspired soft robot with internal tension sensor
Source: University of Glasgow