Scientists Build Cockroach Robot That May Help In Future Disasters

Posted: Feb 8 2016, 11:58pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 9 2016, 9:34pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Build Cockroach Robot That May Help in Future Disasters
The CRAM robot, inspired by cockroaches, can crawl even if it is squashed. Credit: UC Berkeley.

The cockroach inspired robot can squeeze through tiny cracks and is hard to squash. These robot can assist in search-and-rescue scenarios in the future.

Cockroaches are sneaky, speedy insects that can squeeze through the tiniest cracks and are also hard to squash. The ‘traits’ associated with cockroaches may not be too much appreciated by general people but certainly scientists are finding them intriguing. 

Now, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have created cockroach inspired robots that have a remarkable ability to slip through small cracks and run away at a lightning speed even if they are compressed or hit hard by something.

Researchers put real American cockroaches through a series of test to evaluate their strength, agility and other skills. They used high-speed cameras to film roaches running at nearly high speed and slipping through narrow slits. Researchers found that cockroaches can even pass through the slit of one-tenth of an inch.

Using roach technique as inspiration, researchers designed a simple palm-sized robot that is capped with tough yet flexible shield similar to a cockroach has. The tiny robot can spread its legs outward when it is squashed and can withstand 900 times its body weight without being hurt. That’s equal to a 200-pound man who is not crushed by 90 tons on his head.

“What’s impressive about these cockroaches is that they can run as fast through a quarter-inch gap as a half-inch gap, by reorienting their legs completely out to the side,” said lead researcher Kaushik Jayaram. “They’re about half an inch tall when they run freely, but can squish their bodies to one tenth of an inch – the height of two stacked pennies.”

These roach inspired robots, called CRAM, can possibly provide assistance in future search-and-rescue situations when buildings are reduced to rubbles because of tornados, earth quakes and explosions and it’s impossible for humans to reach there.

“In the event of an earthquake, first respondents need to know if an area of rubble is stable and safe, but the challenge is, most robots can’t get into rubble,” said Robert Full, professor of interactive biology at UC Berkeley. “But if there are lots of cracks and vents and conduits, you can imagine just throwing a swarm of these robots in to locate survivors and safe entry points for the first respondents.” 

Researchers used an origami-like manufacturing technique to build robot model but they are still not available for commercial purposes. 

“This is only a prototype, but it shows the feasibility of a new direction using what we think are the most effective models for soft robots, that is, animals with exoskeletons.” Full said.

“Insects are the most successful animals on Earth. Because they intrude nearly everywhere, we should look to them for inspiration as how to make a robot that can do the same.”  

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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