Video: Researchers Build Fastest Soft Robots Yet

Saturday, May 9, 2020 - 10:15

Researchers have developed a new type of soft robot that is capable of moving more quickly on solid surfaces or in the water than previous generations of soft robots.

According to the NC stated University, inspired by biomechanics of cheetahs, researchers could build the fastest soft robot, "Cheetahs are the fastest creatures on land, and they derive their speed and power from the flexing of their spines,” says Jie Yin, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of a paper on the new soft robots."

“We were inspired by the cheetah to create a type of soft robot that has a spring-powered, ‘bistable’ spine, meaning that the robot has two stable states,” Yin says. “We can switch between these stable states rapidly by pumping air into channels that line the soft, silicone robot."

He added that, "Switching between the two states releases a significant amount of energy, allowing the robot to quickly exert force against the ground. This enables the robot to gallop across the surface, meaning that its feet leave the ground."

The fastest soft robots until now could move at speeds of up to 0.8 body lengths per second on flat, solid surfaces. The new class of soft robots, which are called “Leveraging Elastic instabilities for Amplified Performance” (LEAP), are able to reach speeds of up to 2.7 body lengths per second – more than three times faster – at a low actuation frequency of about 3Hz."

"These new robots are also capable of running up steep inclines, which can be challenging or impossible for soft robots that exert less force against the ground." These “galloping” LEAP robots are approximately 7 centimeters long and weigh about 45 grams.

The paper, “Leveraging elastic instabilities for amplified performance: spine-inspired high-speed and high-force soft robots,” is published in the journal Science Advances. First author of the paper is Yichao Tang, a former Ph.D. student of Jie Yin’s when Yin was on faculty at Temple University. The paper was co-authored by Yinding Chi, a Ph.D. student at NC State; Omid Maghsoudi and Andrew Spence of Temple; Jiefeng Sun and Jianguo Zhao of Colorado State University; and Tzu-Hao Huang and Hao Su of the City University of New York.

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