New material developed at CU Boulder could improve current robotic systems
BOULDER, Colo. (KKTV) - Researchers at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus have developed a rubber-like material that can leap 200 times it’s own size by only applying temperature changes.
“Just like a children’s popper toy that many of us have played with for all our lives, basically we use that mechanism to cause any little sheet of polymer to leap off the surface without any [human] intervention,” said Dr. Tim White, Gallogly Professor of chemical and biological engineering at CU Boulder and co-author of the study.
According to Dr. White, and the study’s lead author Tayler Hebner, this discovery could one day help “soft robots” leap or lift objects without the need for gears and other hard components, which are the reason for limitations seen in current robotic systems regardless of how advanced they may be.
“Often times you have a metallic system that’s made up of gears and levers and these types of mechanisms may not be [as] soft and gentle as you may need,” explained Dr. White.
Researchers add that the goal for this newly-developed material is to integrate it into small devices in order to provide more accurate movement during intricate operations such as medical procedures.
“For example, you could imagine using transitions like this to open and close a stint or close a suture even,” said Dr. White.
Still, Dr. White cautions that, while there are a lot of possibilities for the future, it may still take 10 to 15 years to achieve all these goals but that hasn’t stopped top agencies such as the Department of Defense, from taking an interest.
“One application that the Department of Defense considers would be, for example, in disaster relief,” added Dr. White. “Where you would need a small robotic system to explore a place that a human couldn’t get to.”
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