Creepy cockroach-inspired robot can squeeze through crack

New York, Feb 9 (IANS) Taking inspiration from the creepy cockroaches that squeeze through the tiniest cracks, US researchers have developed a robot that can rapidly squeeze through cracks during a search-and-rescue mission.

The robot, called as CRAM, was created to help humans during search-and-rescue operations in rubble arising from natural disasters such as tornados, earthquakes and explosions, the study said.

“What’s impressive about these cockroaches is that they can run as fast through a quarter-inch gap as a half-inch gap, by reorienting their legs completely out to the side,” said Kaushik Jayaram from University of California, Berkeley, the US.

The compressible robot, created with articulated mechanisms was able to squeeze into and run through crevices half its height, the study said.

Cockroaches are about half an inch tall when they run freely, but can squish their bodies to one-tenth of an inch, the researchers said, adding that they can withstand forces 900 times their body weight without suffering injury.

Using the roach technique as an inspiration, the researchers designed a simple and cheap palm-sized robot that can splay its legs outward when squashed, then cap it with a plastic shield similar to the tough, smooth wings covering the back of a cockroach.

While squashed, the cockroaches cannot properly use their feet, so they use the sensory spines on their tibia to push against the floor to move forward, the study said.

They have to use different body parts to move in these spaces, because their legs and feet are not oriented to work properly. But are still capable of generating the large forces necessary for locomotion, the research indicated.

The study will be published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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