A team of researchers from North Carolina State University has developed a new soft robot that can navigate complex scenarios using physical intelligence. These robots, made from a liquid crystal elastomer, do not require computer or human guidance to maneuver through obstacles. Instead, their materials and structural design dictate their behaviors.
The previous version of the robot demonstrated its ability to twist and turn through simple obstacle courses. However, it had difficulty turning unless it encountered an obstacle, causing it to sometimes get stuck. In the new design, the robot is asymmetrical, with one half capable of stretching into a straight line and the other half tightly twisted. This asymmetry creates a difference in the forces exerted by each end of the robot, allowing it to turn without coming into contact with an object.
The robot’s ability to move in arcs enables it to navigate mazes and wiggle its way out of tight spots. It can even navigate through mazes with moving walls and gaps smaller than its body size. The researchers have named this robot “maze escaper.”
The potential applications of this soft robot technology are diverse. One possibility is using these robots to harvest heat energy from their environment. This work is a step forward in innovative approaches to soft robot design and showcases the power of physical intelligence in creating versatile and adaptable robots.
Source: Science Advances