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Harvard Univ researchers show how soft robotics could navigate a difficult obstacle

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Professor George Whiteside's team from Harvard University in Cambridge, USA designed a pneumatically driven robot which is able to do sophisticated manouvers. In a recent paper published in Proceedings of the National Acdemy of Sciences (PNAS), the team of researchers reported that the soft robot uses no sensors but five actuators, and a simple pneumatic valve system operating at a pressure below 10 psi. Robot has been termed as “soft” to differentiate it from the more rigid designs. In fact, the robot is made of soft elastomeric polymers. The inspiration of such design comes from the natural world animals such as squid, worms, starfish etc..

Design advantage of the soft robotics over rigid design come from hazardous real world. Can the polymeric skin able to withstand outside pressure (puncture) or higher stress if encountered in the field? Future research could only answer such questions.

[Reference: R.F. Shepherd, F. Ilievski, W. Choi, S.A. Morin, A.A. Stokes, A.D. Mazzeo, X. Chen, M. Wang, and G.M. Whitesides; PNAS, Online Nov. 28, 2011. doi: 10.1073/pnas.116564108]