From this trick, the Egyptian researcher, Sameh Tawfik, and his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, were inspired by the idea of developing jumping robots the size of insects, capable of performing precise tasks in agricultural or mechanical operations, as well as in rescue missions.
In the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, and led by Professor of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering Sameh Tawfik, the researchers explain that the new robots have three advantages:
A beetle’s small size makes it ideal for working in tight spaces. Strong enough to maneuver and withstand the pressures and weights. Fast as if an insect could run away quickly.
Sameh Tawfik, a professor of mechanical sciences and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Sky News Arabia that the study focuses on understanding the forces and motions that lead to the high jump of small, lightweight robots.
He adds, “The study revealed that by using a special mechanism, called ‘dynamic bending chain’, we can make insect-sized robots that can jump – at least – like normal insects, and even large-sized jumping robots.”
It is noteworthy that there are many robots that have the ability to jump, but they are large in size and have great capabilities, such as the jumping robot that was developed in April of last year. It is less than 30 centimeters high and weighs about 30 grams, and it can launch itself 33 meters in the air. .
Here, Tawfik shows that large jumping robots that use the best engineered components (motors and batteries) and the best engineered materials (steel and carbon fiber composites) can achieve amazing leaps on the scale of these components.
“With this in mind, the challenge that I addressed in my study was how to reduce robots to the size of insects, while maintaining the capabilities achieved in large robots,” he says.
In the past decade, there has been an urgent need to pay attention to the use of robots outside the factory setting, as they were used mainly in assembly operations in modern factories, such as assembling cars.
So, the need arose to not limit the role of robots to this task, and instead use them in all kinds of applications; To achieve this goal, robots must have the ability to move safely, freely and independently, Tawfik told Sky News Arabia.
He continues, “These new applications extend from healthcare to agriculture, maintenance, and search and rescue. To achieve this goal, basic research is needed to develop new types of mobile robots such as: flexible ocean-swimming robots such as octopuses, and insect-sized robots that can navigate Narrow spaces, between parts of engines and turbines, taking pictures of faults, measuring temperatures, and then reporting these faults.
Tawfik lets the imagination run wild. “Imagine that swarms of robots can be deployed on a large scale in agricultural fields, bouncing among plants, leaves and fruits, constantly checking and reporting on the condition of crops!”
A major dilemma facing the small jumping robots, points out the professor of mechanical sciences and engineering, is the problem of mobility, as the insect-sized creatures have limited mobility, especially when carrying heavy objects, since their legs are short.
He explains: “Most insects can climb on walls and vertical surfaces, if they are not carrying things, but if they are carrying something heavy, any obstacle will force them to stop. This is why many insects can jump as a means of locomotion, climbing over obstacles larger than their body length.
The Egyptian scientist explains: “The co-authors of this new study investigated the jumping mechanism of small insects. Specifically, they studied the ‘almond popping beetle’, and discovered that it can store elastic energy and use it when needed by operating a latch.”
“We’ve taken a similar approach to designing jumping robots, using principles of mechanics and new materials produced in my research lab, which act like natural muscles. These artificial muscles look like coils, and can contract to pull out large forces. In this case, the goal is Energy is stored in a spring, which can then be released to induce higher jumps.
Researchers in Dr. Sameh Tawfik’s lab have revealed new capabilities that can be equipped with small jumping robots, as a sensor can be installed on these robots, a microcontroller and a battery. The robots can jump and carry all the extra weight, which is heavier than their own weight, as the robot can jump up to 20 times its size, and the robots have the intelligence to sense an optical trigger, and receive jumping commands from an on-board computer.
The Egyptian scientist says that there is still a need to address a number of challenges, with more additional research studies, such as: addressing high energy efficiency. Currently, these robots can only hop a few times repeatedly before the battery runs out; Because small batteries do not have a large capacity. So new research is needed to develop better new batteries and more energy-efficient designs. To allow robots to run for extended periods.
He continues: “Another challenge is related to commercial use in specific applications, for example, if we want to use robots in agriculture, we first need to define the details of specific needs in agriculture. We must envision the function of these robots in this new environment and study it carefully.” .
He says: “In this case, I envision that engineers will need to mount a small camera and biosensor on board the robots. I also envision that engineering researchers who want to develop this robot into a practical product should study the best mobility mechanics techniques to fit this new environment, depending on on the size, shape and hardiness of the plants.
And about the possibility of using this jumping robot in the Middle East, Tawfiq points out, at the end of his interview with Sky News Arabia, that research institutions in this region can study practical needs and develop the robot according to these needs, as it can be used on dates over palm trees, and it can also be used in Manufacturing industries or the energy industry that has unique needs in the Middle East.
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