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Earthworm robot does what earthworms do

This earthworm robot comes to us from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is made up of mostly soft parts and manages to inch its way along the ground.

The robot’s “skin” is made from a tube of polymer mesh that will hold up to an awful lot of bending and stretching. As with its biological namesake, locomotion is facilitated by circular muscles. In this case muscle wire, when stimulated with electricity, contracts around the mesh casing. By coordinating these contractions the robot is able to inch its way along.

But it’s not just the method of travel that makes this research project interesting. The bot is also extremely resistant to damage. The video after the break shows the device withstanding several whacks from a mallet and being stepped on by the team that created it.

Comments

  1. Hack Man says:

    Sex toy. There, you were all thinking it.

  2. Dale says:

    Seriously though, this type of thing could get huge funding from the porn industry. Can’t wait to see it in action! haha.

  3. naturetm says:

    From the vid: “…may be useful for next generation endoscopes…”

    That sounds uncomfortable.

  4. th3badwolf says:

    Medical applications are most likely targeted. I can clearly see this thing converted into a replacement bowel for a cancer patient that got his removed.

    Way to go!

  5. Tadpole says:

    I came here to make an immature and totally inappropriate comment abotu possible uses for this. Alas, I see I was too late.

  6. Chris C. says:

    Just a matter of time now until someone makes a giant one for Burning Man.

    Shai Halud!

  7. proflt says:

    yes full size ridable worm! like from dune. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj7R_2WWdKs

  8. pmreuattoin says:

    The moment I say this, I wanted to couple this with http://www.artificialbrains.com/openworm

  9. JudgeDredd says:

    Perhaps as a method of execution

  10. Hirudinea says:

    Yes this earthworm robot does what an earthworm does, it creeps me the —- out! Anyway this does remind me of peristalsis, I wonder if this could be used for pumping stuff?

  11. No! says:

    No! Not the Bore Worms!!

  12. Earthworms dig. And turn compost into soil. Can the robot do these things?

  13. Tim says:

    You probably don’t want one of these as an endoscope… these things get HOT! The transition from austenite to martensite phase is done by electrically heating the material, presumably Nitinol (NiTi alloy), above its transition temperature. Once power is cut, the heated material reverts to its original shape as it cools below the transition temperature.

    The transition temperature of NiTi can be controlled for during manufacture, but would have to be well above body temperature to avoid accidental transitions. Beyond that, it must also be well above ambient temperature to achieve the response times (fast enough cooling) shown in the video.

    (Disclaimer: I work with this stuff in my day job. One long-ago project was an SMA-woven seatbelt that would automatically tighten during a crash. IIRC it ended up with still too-slow response times and some singed crash dummies!)

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