Danish scientist created origami-style snake robot to be used for research and rescue (video)

March 13, 2024  22:28

A team of scientists from the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) has developed a unique origami-style snake robot capable of rectilinear locomotion and made from an innovative composite material based on ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. This robot opens up new possibilities for search and rescue operations and exploration of inaccessible areas on Earth and other planets.

When most people imagine a snake crawling on the ground, they likely picture it winding in an "S" shape. In reality, this form of movement, known as serpentine locomotion, is just one of four that snakes typically use. The robot, developed by a team of Danish scientists led by doctoral student Burcu Seyidoğlu and Professor Ahmad Rafsanjani, moves using rectilinear locomotion, a method employed by snakes to navigate narrow spaces where more traditional modes of movement are not feasible.

Rectilinear locomotion does not involve the twisting of the body but instead entails the sequential contraction and relaxation of muscles, starting from the head and ending at the tail. Thanks to the flexibility of the skin on the ventral side of the body, this method allows for effective gripping of the surface and pulling the body forward.

The robot's design embodies this principle with its modular segments made from lightweight composite material based on ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) — the strongest synthetic fiber in the world. This material is laser-cut and folded like origami before being subjected to thermal pressing to form corrugated segments. 

The robot's forward motion is achieved through semi-permeable air pouches, also made from the same material and located at the bottom of each segment. A silicone hose running along the inner part of the robot delivers pulses, inflating and deflating the air from these pouches, causing them to sequentially expand and contract. 

It is worth noting that this development offers several advantages over traditional snake robots: due to its lightweight, flexibility, and relatively inexpensive manufacturing, the robot can effectively penetrate hard-to-reach places while maintaining a straight body position. Currently, scientists are working on an autonomous version of the snake robot with an internal air pump, which is expected to increase its speed and maneuverability.

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