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This Robot Looks Like a Pancake and Jumps Like a Maggot

This Robot Looks Like a Pancake and Jumps Like a Maggot
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This Robot Looks Like a Pancake and Jumps Like a Maggot

This Robot Looks Like a Pancake and Jumps Like a Maggot

If the pancakes are dreaming, they can lengthen the legs so that they can jump out of your breakfast plate in search of a better, unleavened life.

But, it turns out, walking is not necessary for a flat thing like a flapjack. A team of scientists has created a tortilla-shaped robot that can jump several times a second and has a body height of seven times more than half a centimeter. They report that the robot, which is the size of a squeezed tennis ball and weighs as much as a paper clip, performs this invisible feat on its feet. His research was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Shuguang Lee, a robotist at Harvard who was not involved in the research, called the new robot “a smart idea” and a “significant contribution to the field of soft robotics.”

Many terrestrial robots, that is, those that live on the ground without rolling in air or water, move by rolling or walking. But the ability to jump can help the terrestrial robot to cross new space and navigate rough terrain; Sometimes it is more efficient for a robot to jump than to hit an obstacle, wrote Rui Chen, a researcher at Chongqing University in China and author of the paper, in an email.

Although jumping may give some robots a competitive edge, the ability to engineering is a challenge for robotics researchers. Some energy-saving soft robots can rarely make a single, efficient jump. Some lightweight soft robots that do not store energy can spin frequently but cannot jump high or high enough to successfully cross a curb-like obstacle.

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The ideal jumping robot will often be able to jump high and far. But “these two attempts are contradictory,” he said. Chen said. It takes more energy to jump higher or further, and to jump more frequently, it is necessary to accumulate and release that energy in a shorter period of time – a big task for a small robot.

For inspiration, the researchers looked at the Gaul Miz larvae, the maggots that miraculously throw themselves at 30 times the distance, which is one tenth of an inch long. “Most animals need legs to jump,” said Dr. The larvae “can bend their body and jump,” Chen said. The maggot twists itself into a ring shape – its head sticks to its back with distinctive sticky hair – and it tightens by squeezing the liquid to one end of the body. The accumulation of fluid increases the pressure and the release of pressure increases the magnitude.

The robot’s disc-like body is not like a bile larva, but it does jump uniformly. Its body is made up of two plastic pouches printed with electrodes; The front sac is filled with fluid and the rear side is filled with the same amount of air. The robot uses static electricity to drive the fluid flow to distort parts of its body, causing the body to bend and generate force with the ground, resulting in a jump. And the air pouch mimics the function of an animal’s tail, helping the robot maintain a stable position while jumping and descending.

This design allows the robot to jump 7.68 times its body height, and its continuous jumping speed is six body lengths per second – a speed that Dr. Lee called “extremely effective.”

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So the robot could jump fast and constantly. But can obstacles be overcome? To find out, the researchers put a small robot through numerous tests to characterize the inspirational film montage, similar to the training in Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky”.

The robot had to cross various cliffs, slopes and stars. He had to jump across a five millimeter high round step and cross an empty ring eight millimeters high – a big hurdle for a four-millimeter-tall robot with a pancake-like body. The amateur acrobat easily passed all these tests, if not graciously.

The robot can change direction by itself, about 138 degrees per second – the fastest turning speed of any soft jumping robot, Dr. Chen said. According to Wenky Hu, a senior research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who was not involved in the research, like a car, a robot can rotate and operate on its own.

The robot relies on external power supplied by electrical wires. Researchers want to make the robot wireless in future iterations, but keeping the robot small and light will be a challenge, said Dr. Chen said.

“I wonder if connecting an onboard power source will be a challenge for this little soft jumper,” said Dr. Lee said.

Researchers have proposed integrating sensors into smaller robots so that they can detect environmental conditions such as pollutants in buildings. Dr. Lee suggested that the robot could eventually monitor the hard-to-reach areas of large industrial machines or, if equipped with a smaller camera, be used for search and rescue operations for stranded people or animals, as it could travel smaller routes. Spaces in disaster areas. And, he added, the robot is smaller and cheaper. “It only takes a few dollars to build one,” said Dr. Lee said.

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Although robots are currently limited to Earth, Drs. Hu suggested that it is advisable to explore another planet at home. “This type of work requires a simple but robust micro-robot design that is light enough to carry into the new world,” he said. Hu said the materials needed to build this robot are needed to survive and work in the outdoor environment.

If this is true, the researchers’ robot will jump on dusty rocks and pits on the moon or on Mars, where pancakes have never been before.

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