Robots that move by pumping energy from… popcorn

© naftemporiki.gr. Robots that move by pumping energy from popcorn

Researchers at Cornell University have discovered how to run simple robots using… popcorn: In a paper titled “Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators” by Ph.D. student Steven Tseron and assistant professor Kirstin Petersen, it is described how the unique properties of popcorn (tenfold size when heated, viscosity change, etc.) can be exploited to drive economical robotic devices that can catch, expand or change their level of flexibility/stiffness.
 “The purpose of our lab is to try to make very minimalist robots that, when used in large numbers, can do great things”,
says Petersen, who supervises Cornell’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab.
“Simple robots are cheap and less prone to damage and wear, so we can have many to operate autonomously over a long period of time. So we always look for new and innovative ideas that will allow us to have more functionality for less – and popcorn is one of them. “
This study is the first to examine popcorn robot mode, which (popcorn) is inexpensive, readily available, biodegradable and, of course, edible.
“Pumps and compressors tend to be more expensive devices, and add a lot of weight and cost to the robot”,
says Tseron, lead author of the survey.
“With the popcorn, in some of the shows we’ve just done, you just need to put pressure on them to make them shake, so this would remove all the bulky and expensive components from the robots.”
Since grains cannot be contracted and closed when opened, such a mechanism can generally be used only once – although multiple uses could exist if the grains opened can be dissolved in water. The paper was presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May – and Petersen says she hopes to inspire other researchers to consider the use of unconventional materials.
“Robotics is particularly good at embracing new ideas, and we can be extremely creative about what we use to produce multi-function properties. In the end, we come up with very simple solutions, very complicated problems. We do not always have to look for high-tech solutions. Sometimes the answer is in front of us. “
  Source: www.naftemporiki.gr
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