When engineers want to design a robot with superhuman functions, they usually don’t look in the mirror. That’s because today’s humanoid robots are not only difficult to build, but successfully built are also relatively useless.
Do you remember Asimo? The machine was once considered the most advanced humanoid robot in the world in 2000. It can walk, climb stairs and kick a soccer ball but was eventually killed off in 2018, when Asimo’s performances were discontinued. become boring and no longer interesting.
Instead, the most practical robots built by humans turn out to be inspired by animals. We have mouse robots and bird robots built for search and rescue missions, dog robots for battlefield work, exploring Mars or simply carrying a water bottle and jogging with their owners.
Cockroach robot has the ability to accelerate super fast and live super tough, even stepping on it won’t die. There are also snake-shaped robots digging tunnels through the sand for exploration missions. And scarab robots can pollinate crops.
However, people do not always have to imitate Mother Nature. Recently, a team of engineers at the University of California reached a new level, when they successfully built a record-high jumping robot that was not based on any animal prototypes.
It’s a robot measuring 30 centimeters, but it can leap into the air and reach a height of more than 30 meters, which is up to 100 times its own length and the equivalent of a 10-story building.
This is a gravity-defying performance that no living creature can perform. Do you think a frog or a grasshopper can jump that high?
Elliot W. Hawkes, a mechanical engineer at the University of California and lead author of the study, said:The tallest jumping animal on the planet right now is the galago [một loài linh trưởng nhỏ bằng cỡ một con sóc]but it can only jump in place to a height of about 2 meters 3″.
It can be said that Hawkes’ new robot design has “out submission” the whole creation. But how did you do that?
The special design of the robot: unlike any other living creature
Previously, engineers in the world had built 2 record-high jumping robots. One that uses an explosive mechanism that can jump from the ground to a height of 8 meters. The other uses a pneumatic mechanism that can reach a height of 10 meters.
To break these two records, Hawkes’ team designed a new robot with a spring-based jumper. In this type of jumping system, a component called the actuator moves and stores energy into the spring.
When the spring latch is released, it will propel the robot into the air and perform a jump.
In this regard, its basic principles are quite similar to members of the animal kingdom. For example, the grasshopper’s leg muscle acts as an actuator: When it contracts, it partially flexes the knee joint like a spring to create tension. The grasshopper then releases that tension to jump forward.
However, for any creature that jumps based on elastic force, the height of the jump will also be limited by the force that the spring can store. And this force continues to depend on two factors.
The first is how much work an actuator can provide. In animals, muscles have only one contraction, which helps them to stretch their “springs”. But for the actuator in Hawkes’ robot, he used a motor – which can spin several times before each jump and thus continuously store more energy.
World record high jump robot
The second factor that affects the strength of an elastic jump is the ability of the spring to hold as much energy as possible without taking on too much extra load. To maximize the robot’s energy density, Hawkes’ team created a device that weighs just 30 grams, but its entire structure acts like a spring, with no excess parts. outside.
You can see the robot is a whole made up of rubber bands and carbon fiber rods. All of these materials have much higher energy densities than biological tissues.
When the actuator, here a motor, rotates, it coils a wire that contracts the spring. The rubber bands under that tension compress and drink each carbon fiber rod into a curved shape resembling a bow.
Then, the release latch shoots the robot into the air at a speed of about 100 km/h. Under the air resistance and gravity of the Earth, the robot can reach a height of 30 easily. That’s the equivalent of jumping to the roof of a 10-story building.
If the robot is put on the Moon, it can jump 125 meters high and half a kilometer away
At this point, you can ask the engineers who took the trouble to create a high-jumping robot, whether there is any benefit? Assuming there’s a fire on the 10th floor of a building, you’ll want to jump on it with a robot to get to the scene immediately.
A jumping robot is definitely faster than a wheeled robot that has to walk. And it is also more durable and can operate in harsher conditions than a flying drone.
“In a sense, jumping is a great way to get around because you can jump over obstacles that lie in your way.“, said Sarah Bergbreiter, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University.
“The robot jumps can also be done very easily, unlike you have to try to control flying robots or robots with legs or wheels to go through obstacles.”
With these advantages of jumping robots, Hawkes wants to develop them for space exploration missions. He said that in the environment of other planets or celestial bodies, with a thin atmosphere and a lower gravity than Earth, this robot can jump even higher.
“On the Moon, for example, our device could theoretically jump up to half a kilometer forward and reach a height of 125 meters.“, said Hawkes. He is currently working with the US space agency NASA to develop a version of the jumping robot for the purpose of extraterrestrial exploration.
But before it can be shot to the Moon, the jumping robot needs to go through many more upgrades. For example, the current prototype is not yet capable of auto-navigation. It also relies on batteries to power the motor, and it takes up to several minutes to recharge the springs between each jump.
However, Hawkes hopes he and his team will be able to overcome all these remaining weaknesses in time, and launch a perfect version of the high-jumping robot by 2027.
See Washingtonpost, Newscientist