FEB 01, 2023 6:00 AM PST

Researchers Make Headway on Insect-Sized Jumping Robots

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team of researchers led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have made significant progress in creating insect-sized jumping robots that could be used to carry out tasks in small spaces in environments for search-and-rescue, mechanical, and agricultural needs. This study demonstrated how click beetle-sized robots could fit into tight spaces while matching an insect’s speedy escape time and maneuvering over obstacles, which holds the potential to further allow robots to perform tasks too difficult for humans.

"One of the grand challenges of small-scale robotics is finding a design that is small, yet powerful enough to move around obstacles or quickly escape dangerous settings," Dr. Sameh Tawfick, who is a mechanical sciences and engineering professor at U. of I., and a co-author on the study, said in a statement.

For the study, the researchers combined a decade-long examination of click beetle evolution, anatomy, and mechanics with the fast release of elastic energy, also known as snap buckling, to design these robots. In the end, the researchers tested four variations for their robots, with two being able to jump without intervening manually.

"This process, called a dynamic buckling cascade, is simple compared to the anatomy of a click beetle," Dr. Tawfick said in a statement. "However, simple is good in this case because it allows us to work and fabricate parts at this small scale."

Dr. Tawfick concluded by saying that while they don’t have a specific design for a next version of these robots, the study “plants a seed in the evolution of this technology -- a process similar to biologic evolution."

Sources: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Illinois New Bureau

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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