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Hopping robot powered by explosions

Gadget holds some legs stiff and springs off with another to bounce onto and over objects

By
3:23pm, September 22, 2014
jumping robot

RUBBERY LEGS  A tripod of silicone legs helps position this soft-bodied robot prior to a jump. An explosion in a springlike appendage (dark pink, in center) blasts the bot into the air. 

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CHICAGO­ —Tiny explosions may be the next big leap for jumping robots.

Igniting a mix of oxygen and liquid butane releases a burst of energy that can propel a new soft-bodied robot skyward. Inflating the bot’s rubbery legs before the explosion can control which way it hops, researchers from Harvard and Cornell reported September 15 at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

The robot has potential for use in disaster zones, said MIT engineer Sampriti Bhattacharyya, where rubble littering the ground can make it difficult for rescue robots to walk. “You want something very fast that can climb over broken stuff.”

Unlike traditional search-and-rescue robots, with rigid metal or plastic parts, robots with soft bodies

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