Washington: Researchers have engineered a soft robot that inches ahead with earthworm-like peristalsis, crawling across surfaces by contracting segments of its body.
The robot, made almost entirely of soft materials, is remarkably resilient: even when stepped upon or bludgeoned with a hammer, it is able to inch away unscathed.
Sangbae Kim, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says such a soft robot may be useful for navigating rough terrain or squeezing through tight spaces, the journal IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics reports.
The robot is named "Meshworm" for the flexible, meshlike tube that makes up its body. Researchers created "artificial muscle" from wire made of nickel and titanium, a shape-memory alloy that stretches and contracts with heat, according to an MIT statement.
They wound the wire around the tube, creating segments along its length, much like the segments of an earthworm. They then applied a small current to the segments of wire, squeezing the mesh tube and propelling the robot forward.
Besides Kim, other co-authors are graduate student Sangok Seok and post-doctoral researcher Cagdas Denizel Ona, MIT; associate professor Robert J. Wood, Harvard University; assistant professor Kyu-Jin Cho, Seoul National University, and Daniela Rus, professor of computer science and engineering at MIT.