(ORDO NEWS) — Engineers have developed soft robots that look like jellyfish. The new design allows them to be more powerful and productive than previous models, and move faster than the animals themselves.
Soft robotics specializes in creating robots from materials similar to the tissues of the human body. The machines are more flexible, adaptive and safer for people, which makes them convenient for use in medicine and in the workplace. “Our previous work focused on creating soft robots that cheetahs inspired us to, but although they were very fast, they still had a hard inner spine,” says Jie Yin, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University and author of an article on a new robot in Advanced Materials Technologies magazine.
The cheetah robot was one of the fastest models in soft robotics. His work was based on the principle of switching between two states: during movement, he bent and unbent the “spine”, which provided him with a sufficient separation from the ground and high speed (old models could only move like caterpillars). However, a solid ridge reduced performance.
Scientists decided to create a robot that will move on the same principle, but consist only of their soft materials. They constructed it from three layers of elastic polymer: the upper one is tightly stretched, and the lower one contains an annular air channel inside – as a result, a dome is formed. Between them is a third, unstressed layer, which makes the mechanism move in a certain direction. In a relaxed state, it bends and looks like a bowl, and when air enters the channel of the body, it straightens and becomes like a jellyfish, with force pushing out the previously collected water and moving forward. During the experiment, the robot managed to accelerate to 53.3 millimeters per second (for comparison, ordinary jellyfish, which scientists observed, moved at a speed of up to 30 millimeters per second).
The research team showed several more models. The first is a fast-moving mechanism, similar to a caterpillar. He preliminarily folds, and then throws his body forward due to the accumulated energy. The robot also consists of three layers: the upper one is stretched, the lower one with the air channel inside and the third one is relaxed, which makes it move like a larva.
Finally, scientists have created a three-way robot capture. Most grips are initially open, and they need energy to hold the load. The design of the new model is different: the tentacles of the robot are compressed, and efforts must be made to unclench them. As soon as they surround the target, they automatically close and hold it tight. “The advantage here is that you don’t need energy to hold onto an object during transportation – it’s more efficient,” Yin said.
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