The jumping soft robot

05 March 2013 - Making it Jump I

In a spin-off to our Making-it-Move series it is now time for Making-it-Jump. Some time ago the Whitesides lab demonstrated how a soft robotic gripper can be used to lift eggs. This type of device is based on multilayered soft silicone rubber with microchannels that can be inflated and deflated by air pressure. Apparently pressurised air travels too slow so Shepherd et al. in a recent Whitesides lab contribution wondered what would happen when an explosive force is brought in. (DOI)

In a novel tripedal robot, oxygen and methane are combined in the center together with high-voltage wires for ignition. The exhaust valves are located at the extremities and each ignition results in a jump. Here are the numbers: jump height: 30 times height device. Speed: 3.6 m/s, maximum temperature increase at combustion center: 500°C after 3 ms (some plastic degradation takes place.). Some robot footage was posted on Youtube but not entirely convincing. A lot of spastic movement but not a clear jump. Not in this video anyway.

By the way: the article mentions the BostonDynamics Sand Flea as an example of technology the new jumping robot could be employed in. Now this flea can jump!