Harvard University researchers have developed a soft robot that can leap up to one foot in the air using small explosions produced by a mix of methane and oxygen. The researchers say the ability to jump could help future robots avoid obstacles during search-and-rescue missions.
"Using combustion allows us to actuate the robots very fast," says Harvard's Robert Shepherd. "We were able to measure the speed of the robot’s jump at four meters per second." One of they key innovations was incorporating a valve into each leg of the robot. "We flow fuel and oxygen into the channels, and ignite it. The heat expands the gas, causing the flap to close, pressurizing the channel, and causing it to actuate," Sheperd says.
He notes that in the future, internal-combustion systems could be used to develop walking or running robots. "When we do develop those systems, it would be useful to have a power source that can deliver a high volumetric energy density for a long time, and burning hydrocarbon fuels is a proven way to do that," Shepherd says.
From Harvard Gazette
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