Most robots are designed for a specific job and are not very adaptable. Today I tell you about a soft robot that can morph into a range of shapes,such as a driving, flying or swimming robot, thanks to a metal-filled rubber skin that can move between liquid and solid forms Convert easily.
To create a robot with such versatility, the researchers first engineered a material that could change its shape as needed, hold that shape for as long as needed and then return to its original configuration, in addition to doing so multiple times . The material is composed of an elastic endoskeleton that is cut into triangular kirigami patterns. Inside the material is a network of tubes containing a low-melting metal alloy and a set of tendril-like heaters. The structure can be combined with actuators, motors and other components and then used to move and change shape.
It is understood that the robot starts out flat and the metal inside is in liquid form. It can be bent and stretched into the shape desired by the robot, at which point the metal hardens into a solid and holds that shape. After completing any task, the heater can be turned on, heating the metal to 60°C, then melting it and returning the robot to its original shape. There, it’ll be ready to be reshaped into whatever it needs to do next. It can deform and fix its shape in less than a tenth of a second.
In tests, the team used the material to create a robot that could drive along the ground and then morph into a flying drone. Essentially, it’s a flat sheet with upward-facing propellers in its flying configuration, while in its driving form it resembles a curved tortilla shape with the wheels touching the ground.