In a groundbreaking development earlier this year, researchers at the University of Illinois unveiled tiny bio-inspired robots capable of high jumps. Now, the same team led by Prof. Sameh Tawfick has taken their design to new heights, or rather, new distances. By using a springy leg mechanism inspired by locusts, these long-jumping robots possess the ability to conquer rough terrains through extended horizontal jumps.
The secret lies in a 3D-printed elastomer four-bar linkage at the core of the robot’s structure. This linkage is preloaded through the twisting of a coiled actuator made of heat-treated nylon fishing line. Once the stored elastic energy is released, these robots not only jump vertically, like their predecessors, but also cover significantly more horizontal distance. This innovation marks a major milestone in the field of insect-scale robotics, offering planned mobility that enables the robot to traverse terrains much rougher than its own size.
The potential applications of these long-jumping robots are vast. With shrinking battery sizes and integrated sensors, future iterations of these bots could be employed in diverse fields such as crop monitoring and internal machinery inspections. Their small size, agility, and ability to overcome obstacles would make them an invaluable asset in areas where conventional robots cannot access or navigate effectively.
The team behind this remarkable breakthrough built and tested 108 of these robots. The smallest robot, weighing a mere 0.216 grams, was capable of jumping an impressive 60 times its own body length. The research findings have been published in the prestigious journal Smart Materials and Structures.
The future of robotics has been forever changed by these long-jumping robots. As researchers continue to refine their designs, we can anticipate a new era of mobility and exploration in robotics, unlocking possibilities that were once limited by terrain and size.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do the long-jumping robots work?
A: The robots utilize a 3D-printed elastomer four-bar linkage and a coiled actuator made of heat-treated nylon fishing line. The twisting of the actuator preloads the linkage with elastic energy, which is then released to enable both vertical and horizontal jumps.
Q: What are the potential applications of these robots?
A: These robots could be used for various purposes such as crop monitoring and internal machinery inspections, thanks to their small size, agility, and ability to traverse rough terrain.
Q: How many robots were built and tested?
A: The team built and tested 108 long-jumping robots, the lightest of which weighed only 0.216 grams.
Q: Have long-jumping robots been demonstrated before?
A: According to Prof. Sameh Tawfick, this is the first time anyone has demonstrated the ability of long jumping in insect-scale robots.
(Source: University of Illinois)