The soft, locust-like substance can jump 200 times its thickness

Grasshopper on green leaves

Superhumans don’t exist in the real world, but one day you might see super robots. Obviously, robots that are stronger, faster, and better than humans can be made, but do you think there is a limit to how much we can improve them?

Thanks to continuous advances in materials science and soft robotics, scientists are now developing new technologies that can allow this future robots To push the boundaries of non-human biology. For example, a team of researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder recently developed a material that could give rise to soft robots capable of jumping 200 times their own thickness. Grasshoppers, one of the most amazing jumpers on earth, can only jump in the air up to 20 times their own body length.

Despite being outclassed by insects, the researchers behind the rubber-like jumping material say they took inspiration from grasshoppers. Similar to an insect, matter stores large amounts of energy in an area and then releases it all at once making a leap.

Found out by chance

The rubber-like film is made of liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs), which are special materials composed of cross-linked polymer networks. These properties display elastomers (used to make tires, adhesives, and soft robots) and liquid crystals (used to make TV screensartificial muscles and microbes). Responsive to different external stimuli. In general, LCEs are stronger, more flexible, and better movers than conventional elastomers.

The study’s first author, Tyler Hebner, and colleagues were examining their LCEs and LCEs. The ability to change shape. They had no intention of creating a jumping robot at the time, but they did note an interesting behavior of the LCEs. “We were just watching the liquid crystal elastomer lay on the hot plate and wondering why it wasn’t making the shape we expected. It suddenly jumped out of the test stage and straight onto the table top,” Hebner said. He said In a press release.

On contact with the hot spot, the material first twisted and flipped, then suddenly, within the next six milliseconds, jumped through the air to a height about 200 times its thickness.

The researchers realized that LCEs respond to heat, which led to the development of a locust-like substance. While commenting on these findings, Hamid Shahsavan, a materials science expert at the University of Waterloo who was not involved in the study, told Ars Technica, “LCEs typically respond to heat or light. This work also uses heat to generate the energy needed to warp and jump LCEs.”

What makes matter jump?

According to the researchers, the grasshopper-like material is composed of three layers of elastomer and liquid crystals. When the material is heated, the Synthetic rubber The layers begin to shrink but the rate of shrinkage is faster in the upper two layers, which are less rigid than the lower layer. Meanwhile, the liquid crystals also begin to shrink. As a result of these disproportionate changes, a conical formation appears near the legs on the back side of the robot’s body.

The robot has four legs attached to its four sides: two short legs in front and two long legs in the back. According to the researchers, compared to the short legs, the longer hind legs provide a higher point of contact, causing the snapping force to lift the material at the desired angle.

A large amount of energy is stored in the cone and this leads to mechanical instability in the film. As the LCE heats up, the cone-shaped formation rapidly inverts, and the material is kicked into the air. Study authors NB“The concentric packing of the orientation in each of the LCEs changes the shape of the orientation into a cone. However, the variability in the LCE response and the mechanical properties of the materials is shown to result in temporal instability that manifests itself abruptly in a self-contained film.”

The researchers claim that they can change the configuration of the jump material So that it jumps on cooling instead of heating. In addition, they can easily control the direction in which the material jumps by changing the alignment of its legs. Shahsavan suggests that such LCEs could be used to make a variety of robots and mobile devices.

He added, “Confining the jumping mechanism described in this study provides a significant amount of energy from density that can be harvested for the load-bearing functions of small-scale soft robots. Jumping can also be used to move small robots over uneven terrain, either directly or as an adjunct mechanism to other soft robots.” Other movement such as walking, crawling, slowly progressing, etc.

LCEs were discovered about 42 years ago by a chemist named Heino Finkelmann, but this is perhaps the first time scientists have learned about their unusual jumping skills. The resulting locust-like material could provide an efficient means of locomotion Soft robots.

Science Advances, 2023. DOI: (About DOIs)

Rubindra Brahambhatt is an experienced journalist and film director. He covers science and culture news and, over the past five years, has been actively working with some of the most innovative news agencies, magazines and media brands operating in different parts of the world.

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