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robots help humans

Aggiornato il: 29 mar 2019

In this article we are going to talk about new technologies in the sector of robotics and how they can improve our quality of life.

Researchers at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, with an article on the magazine ‘Nature Communications’, announced their new invention: they created the first soft robot mimicking plant tendrils.

It is able to curl and climb using the same physical principles determining water transport in plants. In fact the researchers took inspiration from plants and their mobility, that is associated with growth as they continuously adapt their morphology to the external environment. They studied the natural mechanisms by which plants exploit water transport in their cells, tissues and organs to move, and replicated it in an artificial tendril. The hydraulic principle is called "osmosis," and is based on the presence of small particles in the cytosol, the intracellular plant fluid.

The soft robot is made of a flexible PET tube containing a liquid with electrically charged particles (ions). Powered by a 1.3 volt battery, these particles are attracted and immobilized on the surface of flexible electrodes at the bottom of the tendril; their movement causes the movement of the liquid, which in its turn moves the robot.

Possible applications range from wearable technologies to the development of flexible robotic arms for exploration. The challenge of imitating plants ability to move in changing and unstructured environments has just begun.

There is also another robot that could be useful to human life, it takes inspiration from nature: we are talking about the robotic snake.

OriSnake consists of four origami-like modules mounted in series; these modules follow a diamond pattern called the Yoshimura crease pattern and can bend, contract and extend while inherently resisting torsional deformation.

Capable of fitting through small gaps, moving over rough terrain, and climbing sheer inclines, snakes are physically suited to navigate the wreckage of a collapsed building much like they are suited to traverse the dense undergrowth of a forest.

To improve OriSnake, the researchers plan to optimize the mechanical design of the robot and increase the velocity with different motors. Currently, the robot snake is best suited to soil, sand, and flat surfaces; more research is required to allow it to go over and around rocks that are larger than its height.

OriSnake provides a unique approach to mobility on unstructured terrain and is a viable alternative to the relatively large, wheeled and tracked mobile robots that are sent into uncertain environments. In many instances, this light, soft and low-cost solution may be better suited to navigate complex and narrow environments. As the researchers further develop OriSnake’s agility, it may soon be used in exploratory and search-and-rescue situations.

By Mattucci, Sborgia S, Galasso, Montenero, Caso, Scudieri, Renzetti

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