Real cockroaches are disturbing enough, but Harvard’s new robotic roach can outlast its counterpart underwater and in other environments. The tiny explorer robot can also leverage physics in ways that larger robots cannot.
Cockroaches are known for their endurance, and can survive underwater for 30 minutes, but Harvard’s robotic cockroach can do so much more. The Ambulatory Microrobot, known as HAMR, can swim and easily walk underwater for as long as it needs.
It also has multifunctional foot pads that use surface tension and surface tension-induced buoyancy to paddle across the surface of water.
When it tires of the water’s surface, it uses voltage to break the water surface so it can go underwater. This is known as ‘electrowetting’. Weighing just 1.6 grams, the same weight as a paperclip, the robotic roach can carry an additional 1.44 grams without sinking.
“This research demonstrates that microrobotics can leverage small-scale physics — in this case surface tension — to perform functions and capabilities that are challenging for larger robots,” the first author of the research, Kevin Chen, said.
The next step for the mighty robotic cockroach is to improve its ability to make its way back to dry land without the aid of a ramp. Researchers may take inspiration from the gecko’s grip and apply some sort of adhesive to its ‘feet’.
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