'Super speed' robot inspired by cheetahs

Researchers at the University of North Carolina (NCSU) of the United States developed a soft robot that moves quickly on hard surfaces and lifts heavy objects.

Cheetahs are the fastest animals on land. Stretching and bending backbone structure is one of the factors that helps them reach speeds of up to 120 km / h. This is an inspiration for researchers, led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Jie Yin at NCUS, to create a super speed robot called LEAP.

LEAP robot design inspired by cheetahs. Photo: NCUS.

"LEAP is a silicon soft robot with a double stabilized backbone, meaning it has two stable states," Yin described. "We can quickly switch these two states by pumping air into the pipes along the inside of the robot. This allows it to release a significant amount of energy to quickly apply force to the ground." .

The fastest soft robots previously achieved a maximum speed of about 0.8 body length per second on a solid, flat and horizontal surface. The new robot developed by NCSU can move at speeds of up to 2.7 body lengths per second, 3.4 times faster. Besides, it can climb and swim underwater if the fins are attached.

The team also tested LEAP's ability to lift objects by using several robots to work together like pincers. The results showed that if they adjusted the impact force, they could lift fragile things like eggs to objects over 10 kg.

The trial version of LEAP is only 7 cm long and weighs about 45 grams. Yin and his colleagues believe it is possible to upgrade designs to make robots faster and more powerful in the future.

"LEAP has potential for applications in search, rescue and industrial production, and jobs that require speed. We are ready to partner with private organizations to bring this technology to work." , Yin stressed.

The research details were published in Science Advances.