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May 20, 2020

Researchers build a fast-moving jumping soft robot

Posted by in categories: engineering, robotics/AI

Buckling, the sudden loss of structural stability, is usually the stuff of engineering nightmares. Mechanical buckling means catastrophic failure for every structural system from rockets to soufflés. It’s what caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, among numerous other disasters.

But, as anyone who has ever played with a toy popper knows, buckling also releases a lot of energy. When the structure of a popper buckles, the energy released by the instability sends the toy flying through the air. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have harnessed that energy and used buckling to their advantage to build a fast-moving, inflatable soft actuator.

The research is published in Science Robotics.

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