Italian researchers have created a soft robot, inspired by the earthworm. Made with flexible materials, it is able to move by reproducing their peristaltic crawling.
In order to create a robot capable of exploring the subsoil, researchers from theItalian Institute of Technology (Italian Institute of Technology) were inspired by a living being that lives in the ground: the earthworm. Thanks to soft robotics, which uses flexible materials, they managed to reproduce their very particular movement. They published their results in the journal Scientific Reports.
The prototype is 45 centimeters long and weighs 605 grams. The researchers created a soft peristaltic pump, which mimics the individual segments of earthworms. They thus connected five modules in series, which lengthen when the air pressure inside increases, and contract when it decreases.
This soft robot, inspired by the earthworm, moves forward by contracting its segments one after the other. © IIT-Italian Institute of Technology, Tech Xplore
A robot that could explore the soil of other planets
The robot advances by contracting the modules one after the other, creating a peristaltic wave that imitates the earthworm. Each module can expand by 10.97 millimeters at a positive pressure of 1 bar, and contract by 11.13 millimeters at a negative pressure of 0.5 bar. The researchers also replicated earthworm setæ, microscopic chitinous hairs that help them move forward, by sticking passive scales to the ventral side.
If it won’t win any races, the robot still manages to reach a speed of 1.35 mm/s, or 4.86 m/h. In addition to exploring the underground, such a robot could be used in rescue operations, and even to explore other planets.