Washington: Scientists have developed jumping robots which could skirt obstacles during search and rescue, thanks to tiny explosions triggered by a methane-oxygen mix.
"Initially, our soft robot systems used pneumatic pressure to actuate. While that system worked, it was rather slow - it took on the order of a second," said Robert Shepherd, former post-doctoral researcher at Harvard, now assistant professor at Cornell University, who led the study.
"Using combustion, however, allows us to actuate the robots very fast. We were able to measure the speed of the robot's jump at four metres per second," said Shepherd, the journal Angewandte Chemie reports.
Just as with other soft robots, the three-legged jumping system begins life as a mould created by a 3-D printer. The robots are moulded using soft silicone that allows them to stretch and flex, according to a Harvard statement.
But where pneumatic robots are connected to tubing that pumps in air, the jumping robots are connected to tubes that deliver a precisely controlled mix of methane and oxygen.
Using high-voltage wires embedded in each leg of the robot, researchers deliver a spark to ignite the gases, causing a small explosion that sends the robot into the air.