Nav: Home

Centimeter-long snail robot is powered with light

July 31, 2019

Researchers at the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw, Poland used liquid crystal elastomer technology to demonstrate a bio-inspired microrobot capable of mimicking the adhesive locomotion of snails and slugs in natural scale. The 10-millimeter long soft robot harvests energy from a laser beam and can crawl on horizontal surfaces, climb vertical walls and an upside-down glass ceiling.

Crawling by traveling deformation of a soft body is a widespread mode of locomotion - from microscopic nematodes to earthworms to gastropods - animals across scales use it to move around different, often challenging environments. Snails, in particular, use mucus - a slippery, aqueous secretion - to control the interaction between their ventral foot and the surface. Their adhesive locomotion has some unique properties: it can be used on different surfaces, including wood, metal, glass, teflon (PTFE) or sand in various configuration, including crawling upside-down. For robotics, low complexity of a single continuous foot could offer resistance to adverse external conditions and wear and tear, while the constant contact with the ground may provide high margins of failure resistance. Adhesive locomotion in robots have been limited so far to externally powered, centimeter-scale demonstrators with electro-mechanical drives.

Liquid Crystalline Elastomers (LCEs) are smart materials that can exhibit macroscopic, fast, reversible shape change under different stimuli, including illumination with visible light. They can be fabricated in various forms in the micro- and millimeter scales and, by the molecular orientation engineering, can perform complex modes of actuation.

Researcher from the University of Warsaw with colleagues from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China have now developed a natural-scale soft snail robot based on the opto-mechanical response of a liquid crystalline elastomer continuous actuator. The robot propulsion is driven by light-induced traveling deformations of the soft body and their interaction with the artificial mucus layer (glycerin). The robot can crawl at the speed of a few millimeters per minute, about 50 times slower than snails of comparable size, also up a vertical wall, on a glass ceiling and across obstacles.

Despite the slow speed, need of constant lubrication and low energy efficiency, our elastomer soft robot offers unique insights into micromechanics with smart materials and may also provide a convenient platform for studying adhesive locomotion - says Piotr Wasylczyk, head of the Photonic Nanostructure Facility at the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw, Poland, who led the study.

Researchers, who have already demonstrated a natural-scale light-power caterpillar robot, believe that new generation of smart materials, together with novel fabrication techniques will soon allow them to explore more areas of small-scale soft robotics and micro-mechanics.

The research on soft micro-robots and polymer actuators are funded by the National Science Center (Poland) within the project "Micro-scale actuators based on photo-responsive polymers" and by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education with "Diamentowy Grant" awarded to M. Rogoz.
-end-
Physics and Astronomy first appeared at the University of Warsaw in 1816, under the then Faculty of Philosophy. In 1825 the Astronomical Observatory was established. Currently, the Faculty of Physics' Institutes include Experimental Physics, Theoretical Physics, Geophysics, Department of Mathematical Methods and an Astronomical Observatory. Research covers almost all areas of modern physics, on scales from the quantum to the cosmological. The Faculty's research and teaching staff includes ca. 200 university teachers, of which 77 are employees with the title of professor. The Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw, is attended by ca. 1000 students and more than 170 doctoral students.

SCIENTIFIC PAPERS:

Mikolaj Rogoz, Klaudia Dradrach, Chen Xuan, Piotr Wasylczyk, "A Millimeter-Scale Snail Robot Based on a Light-Powered Liquid Crystal Elastomer Continuous Actuator", Macromolecular Rapid Communicationshttps://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/marc.201900279

CONTACTS:

Piotr Wasylczyk
Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw
tel. +48 505 004 059
email: pwasylcz@fuw.edu.pl

RELATED LINKS:

http://www.fuw.edu.pl/
Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw.

http://www.fuw.edu.pl/informacje-prasowe.html
Press office of the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw.

IMAGE:

FUW190730b_fot01s

HR: http://www.fuw.edu.pl/press/images/2019/FUW190730b_fot01.jpg

Photo of the snail robot next to a garden banded snail (Cepaea hortensis). (Source: UW Physics)

MOVIE:

FUW190730c_mov01

http://www.fuw.edu.pl/press/images/2019/FUW190730c_mov01.mp4 The snail robot crawling over an obstacle (real time and fast forward). (Source: UW Physics)

Faculty of Physics University of Warsaw

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...