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Natural Scale Caterpillar Soft Robot Is Powered and Controlled With Light

By ­niversity of Warsaw

August 23, 2016

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Researchers at the University of Warsaw have used liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) to develop a bioinspired micro-robot that can mimic the gait of a caterpillar in natural scale.

The LENS Institute in Italy originally developed the technology.

LCEs are smart materials that can exhibit large shape change under illumination with visible light, and recent developments have made it possible to pattern these soft materials into arbitrary three-dimensional forms with a pre-defined actuation performance. Working with colleagues from the LENS Institute and the University of Cambridge, the researchers demonstrated a 15-millimeter-long soft robot that harvests energy from green light and is controlled by spatially modulated laser beam.

The technique does not require numerous discrete actuators to perform complex actions. The soft robot can travel on flat surfaces, climb slopes, squeeze through narrow slits, and transport loads as heavy as 10 times its own mass.

"We are only beginning to learn from nature and shift our design approaches towards these that emerged in natural evolution," says the University of Warsaw's Piotr Wasylczyk, who led the project.

From University of Warsaw
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