Natural scale caterpillar soft robot is powered and controlled with light

From Nanowerk News:

Researchers at the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw, using the liquid crystal elastomer technology, originally developed in the LENS Institute in Florence, demonstrated a bioinspired micro-robot capable of mimicking caterpillar gaits in natural scale (Advanced Optical Materials, “Light-Driven Soft Robot Mimics Caterpillar Locomotion in Natural Scale”).

The 15-millimeter long soft robot harvests energy from green light and is controlled by spatially modulated laser beam.

Apart from travelling on flat surfaces, it can also climb slopes, squeeze through narrow slits and transport loads.

For decades scientists and engineers have been trying to build robots mimicking different modes of locomotion found in nature. Most of these designs have rigid skeletons and joints driven by electric or pneumatic actuators. In nature, however, a vast number of creatures navigate their habitats using soft bodies – earthworms, snails and larval insects can effectively move in complex environments using different strategies. Up to date, attempts to create soft robots were limited to larger scale (typically tens of centimeters), mainly due to difficulties in power management and remote control.

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