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Ringbots mimic tire rolling, top spinning, and moon-like orbits

Summary

A team of researchers has introduced an innovative ringbot design capable of executing three simultaneous actions: rolling forward, spinning like a record, and following a path that orbits around a central point. This autonomous device, operating without human or computer control, shows potential for the creation of soft robotic systems designed for navigation and mapping in unfamiliar environments.

Twisted Ringbots: Innovative Soft Robots React to Temperature Changes

The recently developed soft robots, named twisted ringbots, are constructed from ribbon-like liquid crystal elastomers. These materials are twisted, resembling rotini noodles, and connected at the ends to create a loop resembling a bracelet.

When these robots are positioned on a surface with a temperature exceeding 55 degrees Celsius (131 degrees Fahrenheit), warmer than the surrounding air, the segment of the ribbon in contact with the surface contracts, while the exposed portion facing the air remains unaffected.

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Ringbot’s Thermal Power: Rolling, Spinning, and Navigating Boundaries

The twisted ringbot utilizes surface warmth to induce a rolling motion, with increased surface temperature resulting in faster rolling. Alongside rolling, it spins on its central axis, resembling a record on a turntable. As it advances, the robot follows an orbital path around a central point, effectively moving in a large circle. Additionally, when faced with a boundary, such as the wall of a box, the twisted ringbot exhibits the ability to navigate along the boundary.

Physical Intelligence: Twisted Ringbots Show Self-Directed Behaviors

The twisted ringbots exemplify devices operating on physical intelligence, where their actions are shaped by structural design and materials rather than external programming.

Researchers can precisely adjust the behaviour of these twisted ringbots by engineering their geometry. For instance, they can dictate the spinning direction by twisting the ribbon in specific ways, while speed is modulated by altering the ribbon width and the number of twists.

In proof-of-concept trials, the researchers demonstrated the ability of the twisted ringbot to navigate through diverse confined spaces, adhering to their contours.

Article Link: https://news.ncsu.edu/2024/01/roll-spin-orbit-soft-robot/

 

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