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SHENZHEN — Inspired by cockroaches, a team of Chinese and US scientists have developed a fast-moving soft robot that can withstand being stood on by an adult, according to a recently published paper on Science Robotics.
The soft robot, with a length of 1 cm and width of 1.5 cm, can move at a relative speed of 20 body lengths per second, according to Zhang Min, the corresponding author of the paper.
It looks like a strip of paper and can carry loads, climb slopes and is as sturdy as a cockroach. The robot could also withstand being stepped on by a 60 kg adult, Zhang said.
The robot is a collaboration between researchers at Tsinghua University, where Zhang works, the University of California, Berkeley and Beihang University.
Soft robots, which are flexible and able to adapt to new environment, can be repaired more easily, according to the researchers.
“The material used for the research is not complicated; the major innovation is its structural design and powering mechanism,” said Zhang, “The design of its ‘legs’ enable it to move fast and is an innovation in soft robot design.”
Soft robots like this could be used in fields including disaster rescue, pipeline detection, environmental monitoring and clinical operations. For example, researchers say, the robot can aid engineers in repairing an aero-engine without dismantling it.
“However, there is still a long way to go before the robot can be widely applied,” Zhang said, adding that the team will continue to optimize the structural design and increase more functionalities of the robot.