MIT’s wormbot inching toward warzones, operating tables

By Graham Templeton on November 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

More and more, roboticists are looking to nature for inspiration. Whether they’re using gecko tech to make wall-climbers, canine kinetics to navigate a battlefield, or just advocating a whole animal-based design philosophy, robotics experts are beginning to recognize that a few billion years of trial and error can produce some truly ingenious design elements. Now a lab at MIT is continuing the trend by cribbing their engineering from the humble earthworm, creating a writhing wormbot called “Meshworm” that’s got the attention of everyone from Johns Hopkins to DARPA.

Part of what makes Meshworm so valuable is the simplicity of its design; the basic principle of its locomotion is actually centuries old, built on the simple fact that different metals expand at different rates when heated. A coil of nickel-titanium wire surrounds Meshworm’s internal workings like a Slinky, and the robot can apply current to create heat and deform the coil in any of several body segments. The pattern of expansions that creates its forward movement, called peristalsis, is lifted directly from the earthworm (or indeed your gut).

Read more: MIT’s wormbot inching toward warzones, operating tables | ExtremeTech.

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