Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new robot, one that may excite snake lovers. The robot’s exterior is made up of entirely soft components which resemble a snakeskin and can crawl just like the invertebrate. For its design, the researchers utilized principles from the Japanese art form, kirigami, to allow the soft robot to crawl on the ground.
Kirigami is an ancient Japanese art form that involves cutting paper into specific shapes.
The limbless soft robot is able to slide along the ground by inflating and deflating itself over and over, according to the study detailing the artificial snake published in the journal, Science Robotics.
What’s noteworthy about the robotic snake is its skin, which is a thin, stretchable plastic sheet that was cut with a laser into different triangles and circles. The exterior resembles the scales on the skin of a snake.
According to the study, the robot expands and contracts, making the scales to grow out of the artificial snakeskin and attach to the surface, effectively pulling the robot forward. Out of all the shapes applied on the robot, researchers found that trapezoid-shaped cuts were the most effective as it allowed the artificial snake to stride.
The researchers were able to successfully use the robot on rough surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. More so, they believe that in the future, a similar robot design can be used to traverse difficult terrain for a range of purposes, including exploration of new areas or inspections within areas ravaged by disaster. The robot snake could also be built on a smaller scale and used to deliver drugs inside arteries.
Ahmad Rafsanjani, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, said that the robotic crawler took more than a year to develop. He developed hundreds of skins and nearly 50 soft robots before he discovered an ideal design.
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