For the past few millennia, human history has always been a wonderful and interesting thing. But one thing is constantly occurring throughout its entirety – War. This event was always horrible and ugly; and the loss of lives following in its wake dreadful. But what if self propelled robots could be the solution to this problem? Something small and low-cost? After all, ending a war as soon as possible meant that more lives could be saved.
Robots may be smart and useful in many different ways. However, they can wear out in time. They are still machines anyway. But have you heard of “machineless” robots, yet? This time, researchers at the University of Massachusetts made something cool – robots that can move without needing machines and gears. These guys also discovered how to make materials snap and reset themselves by using only the energy flow from the immediate environment.
The research was funded by the US Army to develop robots that could one day move using their own energy.
According to Dr. Ralph Anthenien, branch chief of Army Research Office, this work is “a part of a larger effort to understand engineered and biological impulsive systems for future applications in actuation and motive systems for the army and defense.”
Just A Result Of A Mundane Experiment
It all started while watching a gel strip dry during an experiment. The researchers discovered how to make new materials that reset and snap by themselves using only available energy from the immediate environment. It is said that this discovery might one day help create better military robots that can move off using only the available energy flow of the environment.
Snap instabilities are fast movements made from the liquid evaporating. These are nature’s way of demonstrating the “spring and latch” system, which are frequently used in making small robots move faster. Further studies also reveal that the material’s shape mattered.
Since it was inspired by the way how Venus flytraps behave, researchers have developed cutting-edge materials that alter their shapes as a way of propelling themselves by using only their own energy. It is believed that in the future, these self propelled robots could be used from making toys for children to military-grade hardware for the US Army.
Dr. Al Crosby, professor of science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts, said that this discovery could introduce various new applications that won’t require motors and batteries for movement.
Future Implications Of Self Propelled Robots
After the discovery, the researchers tried other shapes to check if others would have similar reactions. The team even managed to make the reshaped strips climb a set of stairs on their own.
Later on, Crosby said that such phenomena demonstrate how materials generate powerful movements by only using major interactions in the environment, such as thru evaporation. He added that they are important for designing small robots in the future, where batteries, motors, or other energy sources can be difficult to install.
Furthermore, the research team is coordinating with DEVCOM to transfer and implement these findings into future Army systems.
More About DEVCOM
DEVCOM is an element of the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command responsible for operationalizing science for military advantages. DEVCOM leads the development, discovery, and delivery of tech-based capabilities to make their soldiers more successful and increase their survivability in the frontlines. Lastly, it is a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command.
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