Now, a caterpillar-inspired soft robot that curls into a high-speed wheel

April 27th, 2011 - 1:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 27 (ANI): Inspired by a caterpillar that has the extraordinary ability to rapidly curl into a wheel and propel itself away from predators, researchers have created a robot that curls itself into a loop and peels out at speeds faster than half a meter per second.

To develop a better understanding of the mechanics behind ballistic rolling - one of the fastest wheeling behaviours in nature - that certain caterpillars display when frightened, researchers from Tufts University, Massachusetts designed a 10cm long soft-bodied robot, called GoQBot, made out of silicone rubber and actuated by embedded shape memory alloy coils.

It was named GoQBot as it forms a “Q” shape before rolling away at over half a meter per second.

The GoQBot was designed to specifically replicate the functional morphologies of a caterpillar, and was fitted with 5 infrared emitters along its side to allow motion tracking using one of the latest high speed 3D tracking systems. Simultaneously, a force plate measured the detailed ground forces as the robot pushed off into a ballistic roll.

Lead author Huai-Ti Lin from the Department of Biology, Tufts University, said: “GoQBot demonstrates a solution by reconfiguring its body and could therefore enhance several robotic applications such as urban rescue, building inspection, and environmental monitoring.”

“Due to the increased speed and range, limbless crawling robots with ballistic rolling capability could be deployed more generally at a disaster site such as a tsunami aftermath. The robot can wheel to a debris field and wiggle into the danger for us,” he added.

The study has been published in IOP Publishing’s journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. (ANI)

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