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This new robot takes inspiration from an unexpected source- the Gecko. Geckos can climb across any surface, from a dry desert floor to a cold mountain top, and are the inspiration for many wall-crawling robots. Now, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have applied its abilities to water, too.
“This is an amazing proof of concept,” said Sampada Acharya, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering’s lab, “We can imagine using a material like this not only for underwater exploration but to help everyday people in health care too.”
A typically complex procedure, the team simplified the process in a cost-effective, fast, and simple way. The team wanted to test the material on something that could both climb and swim, so it developed a Gecko Adhesion Based Sea Star (GASS) Crawler robot.
According to Techxplore, the researchers tested the robot’s performance on glass, acrylic, and stainless-steel surfaces and found that the adhesive feet significantly improved movement under both wet and dry conditions. It was able to climb on 25-degree slopes and hold on statically to 51-degree slopes.
“I hope to see providers utilizing robots integrated with gecko-inspired smart materials to collect and detect pathogens on surfaces. This will reduce human error and can decrease hospital infections, reduce operational costs and make patients’ lives easier,” explained Acharya. “GASS crawler’s ability to move on all different surfaces brings us one step closer to that goal.”
As they move forward with their research, the team hopes to improve both the gecko-inspired adhesives and the sea star crawler so that it can be submerged in water, climb steeper slopes, and reach faster speeds.
The paper is published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.