ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY

Jumping robots that could one day jump to the moon


This new jumping robot may be suitable for exploring the moon. Image credit: Elliot W. Hawkes

A robot capable of jumping more than 100 times its own altitude could jump over challenging terrain on the moon and explore rocky surfaces faster than a wheeled rover, the researchers said.

Elliot Hawkes of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues have developed a robot that is only 30 centimeters tall and can jump 32.9 meters high, driven by a carbon fiber spring skeleton. The research was recently published in Nature.

Hawkes said the animal’s maximum jump height is limited by the energy its muscles produce during exercise. But the new robot uses a miniature motor to stretch the spring during multiple spins, jumping only when it stores a lot of energy.

The robot weighs only 30 grams, and although it has only a small motor, it uses a gear system to slowly compress springs. This energy is then rapidly released, launching the robot into the air. Once the robot is on the ground sideways, it can also adjust itself by re-tightening the spring and preparing for the next jump.

Hawkes said the robot can reach a jump height of 125 meters on the moon and can walk about 0.5 kilometers per jump, making it an ideal exploration machine. “The Moon is a truly ideal jumping spot, with a gravitational pull of only one-sixth of Earth’s and essentially no air.” On Earth, he said, about 25 percent of the potential jump height is lost due to air resistance.

“The robot can jump to the edge of a hard-to-reach cliff, or jump to the bottom of a crater to collect samples and then return to a wheeled rover.” Hawkes said.

Pietro Valdastri of the University of Leeds in the UK says the design enables unprecedented robot jump heights. “There’s a lot of potential for this technology to be integrated and designed into robots for post-disaster relief such as earthquakes or tsunamis,” he said. (Source: China Science Daily, Li Muzi)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04606-3



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