Cockroach-inspired robot withstands 1M times its own weight
Rugged UC Berkeley robo-bug also skitters at speeds similar to the insect that inspired it.
“Most of the robots at this particular small scale are very fragile. If you step on them, you pretty much destroy the robot,” said Liwei Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley and senior author of a new study that describes the robot. “We found that if we put weight on our robot, it still more or less functions.”
The robot is composed of a thin sheet of piezoelectric polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) coated with an elastic polymer to bend the PVDF sheet like a bow. Charged by an oscillating electric field, the material quickly straightens and bends rapidly, allowing its front leg to pull the robot forward at approximately the same speed (20 body lenghs per second) as a real cockroach.
Although the robot is currently “tethered”, the Berkeley team currently working to add a battery and gas sensors while also improving its ability to steer around obstacles. The researchers envision the robot being used to explore rubble in hazardous search and rescue missions.