Science innovations often take notes from nature's designs, but this time, a team of innovators took their cues from both nature and art. The team has designed a snake-inspired soft robot that can move with relative ease across different surfaces thanks to its kirigami skin.
Inspired By Nature
A research team from Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has created a soft robot made of deformable materials. It has a variety of innovative implications, but its movements are quite limited, as it can only move back and forth. This is because the robot does not have the directional friction needed to propel it forward.
Taking a cue from nature, the team was inspired by snake movement, in that the creatures could crawl on different surfaces with ease because of the design and positioning of their scales. With this in mind, they took their inspiration to the next level by incorporating kirigami, which is a form of art that is similar to origami but involves cutting paper.
Researchers then created a pack of crawling soft robots by wrapping their air-powered soft robot with the kirigami snake skins with different shapes. Interestingly, the shape of the scales determined the speed of the robot wherein the trapezoidal pattern gave the robot a longer stride compared to the triangular, linear, and circular scales.
Initially, the soft robots moved with the help of stationary air sources connected to them via a flexible tube. This allowed the robots to expand and deflate and, with the help of its scales, move forward as long as it is attached to the air source. However, as real-world applications of the technology will likely require an untethered design, the researchers have also built a fully untethered robot with small lightweight components that can be attached to the tail of the robot without limiting its movements.
"These all-terrain soft robots could one day travel across difficult environments for exploration, inspection, monitoring and search and rescue missions or perform complex, laparoscopic medical procedures," said Katia Bertoldi, senior author of the paper.
The study is published in the journal Science Robotics.