Engineers look to the animal realm for inspiration when trying to create robots that can navigate challenging real-world conditions. Bots resemble the movement of animals like dogs and cheetahs, or birds taking flight, as a result of this biomimicry. It’s been proven that bypassing the limits of biological models may lead to new heights for researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Their 30-centimeter-tall jumper can leap more than 30 meters into the air, about the height of a ten-story skyscraper and 100 times its own height, making it the world’s most powerful jumper.
For a live organism, this gravity-defying feat is several heads and shoulders over the farthest it can go. Scientists have found that the galago, a squirrel-sized monkey, is the best-known animal jumper, having jumped 2.3 meters high from a standing position, according to UCSB mechanical engineer Elliot Hawkes, who co-authored research on the super jumper project.
Furthermore, he points out that the apparatus stands out in the mechanical area, where jumpers had been propelled to eight meters by combustion and compressed gas. A person who studied at Carnegie Mellon University as a mechanical engineer was not involved in the new study but provided an accompanying remark, “It jumps far higher than most other jumping robots in the world.”
They used elastic power to develop the new leaper. In this system, an actuator travels and stores energy in a spring, which is then released by a latch to push an item into the air. Members of the animal kingdom utilize a similar process to this one. What happens when the muscle contracts in the leg of the grasshopper is that it bends back a spring-like component of the knee joint, creating tension that propels the insect into the air.
Human engineering, on the other hand, introduced a number of important advances for the new project. The maximum height that can be achieved with an elastic-based jumper is governed by the spring’s energy storage capacity, which is in turn determined by two things. The first thing to consider is how much work an actuator can do. Muscles in animals can only expand their “spring” with a single contraction. The new mechanical jumper’s actuator, on the other hand, was powered by a motor that could be turned numerous times before each jump, allowing it to store more energy.
The spring’s capacity to store as much energy as possible without adding too much weight is the second determinant of an elastic jumper’s prowess. The 30-gram gadget was designed to serve as a spring across its whole body, in order to enhance the new bot’s energy density. Carbon fiber slats and rubber bands, which have high density in energy density than biological tissues, make up this structure. The actuator turns up the string that constricts the spring: rubber bands are put under stress and carbon fiber is compressed. This causes each slat to bend into an archer’s bow-like form when the actuator turns up (light rotary motor). Similar to the self-propelled arrow, the robot is launched into the air when the clasp is released. It was reported in a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday by the team that worked on it.
Wheeled, walking, and even flying robots are unable to properly navigate several typical situations. According to Bergbreiter, “jumping is a beautiful technique to go about because you can leap over impediments that might be in your path,” whereas “you don’t have a lot of the intricacy that comes with attempting to fly over those barriers or maneuver around those hurdles with legs.” Even in an airless, gravity-free environment, Hawkes’ contraption might soar to even greater heights, making it an ideal leaping robot for space exploration. In theory, he claims, his technology could make a single leap of 125 meters into the air and advance half a kilometer ahead on the surface of the moon. There’s no reason why it couldn’t take samples from the side of an impassable rock face or the bottom of a deep crater, then hop back to a vehicle with wheels.
NASA and Hawkes are collaborating on the device’s advancement. The jumper, on the other hand, will require more work before it is ready to journey to the moon. For example, the present prototype does not have the capacity to independently travel. It also uses a battery to power its motor and must reload its spring between each leap, which takes a few minutes to complete. Furthermore, it is unable to control the height of its leap. A more advanced version will be ready in five years, according to Hawkes.
The new technology can benefit scientists by revealing the boundaries of biomimicry without having to leave the planet. Researchers use a variety of jumping robots to explore how creatures from fleas to people launch themselves into the air. As a result, they integrate the restrictions of those species, but our experiment demonstrates that they don’t have to and that breaking some laws might have enormous advantages.
According to Hawkes, an optimal solution in biology isn’t always an optimum answer in engineering since biological systems operate under distinct limitations. There are many similarities and differences between a biological system and an engineered one. It is important to examine these similarities and differences while designing an engineered system. We can see how it may be tweaked to develop additional nimble machines for a wide range of applications based on this achievement.