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They create beetle robots that can jump and perform tasks in confined spaces

There are beetles that are capable of jumping more than ten times their body length. Now, a scientific team has succeeded in designing robots Manakins the size of this insect that can perform tasks in confined spaces, which are often found in mechanical, agricultural and rescue settings.

The robots, designed by engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States, are powerful enough to maneuver over obstacles and fast enough to match the fast escape time of an insect.

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Its description is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and, according to those responsible, it is a “significant step” in the development of jumping robots.

Researchers, in collaboration with scientists at Princeton University, have studied the anatomy, mechanics, and evolution of elaterids (known by many names, including “click” or “snapper” beetles) for the past decade.

A 2020 study found that a coiled muscle in the thorax of these insects triggers a jerk (rapid release of elastic energy) that allows them to propel themselves several times their body length in the air to right themselves if they land on their backs.

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“One of the great challenges in small-scale robotics is finding a design that is small but powerful enough to navigate obstacles or quickly escape dangerous environments”explains Sameh Tawfick.

In the new study, Tawfick and his team used tiny coil activators – analogous to animal muscles – that pull on a beam-like mechanism, causing it to slowly bend and store elastic energy until it is spontaneously released and amplified. , propelling the robots up.

This process is straightforward compared to a beetle’s anatomy, Tawfick details; “however, simple is good in this case because it allows us to work and manufacture parts on this small scale.”.

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Guided by biological evolution and mathematical models, the team built and tested four variations of the device, focusing on two configurations that can successfully jump without manual intervention.

Looking ahead, we don’t have a fixed approach to the exact design of the next generation of these robots, but this study plants a seed in the evolution of this technology.says Tawfick.

The team envisions these robots getting into tight spaces to help perform maintenance on large machines like turbines and jet engines, taking pictures, for example, to identify problems.

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We also envision insect-scale robots useful in modern agriculture.Tawfick explains.

Currently, he adds, scientists and farmers use drones and rover vehicles to monitor crops, but sometimes they need a sensor to touch a plant or take a picture of a very small-scale item. “Insect-scale robots can do that.”.

The University of Birmingham, Oxford and Texas have also participated in the research.

Source: Elcomercio

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