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Squishy Motors Power Soft Robots

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Versatile and Hardy Soft Robots Created

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Photo: Xiangyu Gong and the Mazzeo Research Group

Science Daily reports that the Rutgers University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has created a soft motor that could power multipurpose hardy soft robots able to operate under water and on rough surfaces.

Rutgers says that its “engineers used silicone rubber that is nearly 1 million times softer than aluminum. Its softness is somewhere between a silicone spatula and a relaxed human calf muscle.”

The breakthrough study was published online this week in the journal Advanced Materials.

Innovations include:

  • Motor rotation without bending. “It’s actually remarkably simple, but providing torque without bending is something we believe will be advantageous for soft robots going forward,” Mazzeo said.
  • A unique wheel and axle configuration that is not found in nature. The soft wheels may allow for passive suspensions in wheeled vehicles.
  • Wheels that use peristalsis, the process people use to push food to the stomach through the esophagus.
  • A consolidated wheel and motor with an integrated “transmission.”
  • Soft, metal-free motors suitable for harsh environments with electromagnetic fields.
  • The ability to handle impacts. The vehicle survived a fall eight times its height.
  • The ability to brake motors and hold them in a fixed position without the need for extra power.Tags: robotics, mechanical engineers, power

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