Squishy Robots To Tackle Tricky Places


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Scientists are developing phase changing material for robots to squeeze in small areas. The research was held by MIT scientists in collaboration with researchers at the Max Planck Institute. They are developing a squishy robot to squeeze in small areas.

The technology made from foam and wax to deform the robots. The phase changing material make it a viable and cheaper alternative to traditional, solid robots. And its combination enables it to switch between hard and soft states.

This material developed by scientists has another potential application. For example, it could use to build a surgical robot. Thus, it would be able to travel throughout the human body without damaging other organs.

Scientists noticed that robots with soft structure are difficult to control. So they decided to develop a robotic structure which can transfer between solid and hard states.

Then scientists have integrated the material into this squishy robot. After testing, the squishy robots can squeeze through small holes and re-expand on the other side. This mimics almost similar to octopi.

Anette Hosoi said, “If you’re trying to squeeze under a door, for example, you should opt for a soft state, but if you want to pick up a hammer or open a window, you need at least part of the machine to be rigid.”

Working of this Squishy robot:

A foam layer is immersed in hot wax and squeezed to absorb the material. Due to this, the foam provides a soft, pliable internal structure whereas the wax provides solid and pliable characteristics. Wax remains solid at cooler temperatures, but with a little heat, it becomes soft and able to squeeze through tight areas. This wax can also be heat as it reaches a liquid state, healing any damage in the process.

There is a long wire that manages temperature through the structure. The wire acts as a resistor which constantly produces heat.

Hosoi said, “This material is self-healing. So if you push it too far and fracture the coating, you can heat it and then cool it, and the structure returns to its original configuration.”

Moreover, this squishy robot has low manufacturing costs. Means, the robot could commence on dangerous missions. And because of this potential, this squishy robot could use for search and rescue missions.

Professor Carmel Majidi said, “This work is a great demonstration of how thermally controlled rigidity-tuning could potentially be used in soft robotics.”


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