Research ArticleBIOMIMETICS

Insect-scale fast moving and ultrarobust soft robot

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Science Robotics  31 Jul 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 32, eaax1594
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aax1594


Mobility and robustness are two important features for practical applications of robots. Soft robots made of polymeric materials have the potential to achieve both attributes simultaneously. Inspired by nature, this research presents soft robots based on a curved unimorph piezoelectric structure whose relative speed of 20 body lengths per second is the fastest measured among published artificial insect-scale robots. The soft robot uses several principles of animal locomotion, can carry loads, climb slopes, and has the sturdiness of cockroaches. After withstanding the weight of an adult footstep, which is about 1 million times heavier than that of the robot, the system survived and continued to move afterward. The relatively fast locomotion and robustness are attributed to the curved unimorph piezoelectric structure with large amplitude vibration, which advances beyond other methods. The design principle, driving mechanism, and operating characteristics can be further optimized and extended for improved performances, as well as used for other flexible devices.

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