Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mimicking Muscles Mechanically Promises To Change The Way That Robots Explore The Solar System

Date:
June 25, 1999
Source:
University Of Arizona
Summary:
A University of Arizona researcher hopes to send a device called a Biomorphic Robot with Distributed power (BiRoD) to Mars and other distant points in the solar system where they will probe, dig, photograph, analyze and generally explore the planets, moons and asteroids.

"We are trying to imitate biological systems," says Professor Kumar Ramohalli pointing to a 12-inch-long box supported by what look like legs at the front and legs on wheels at the back.

Ramohalli, of the aerospace and mechanical engineering (AME) department at The University of Arizona in Tucson, calls this device BiRoD -- Biomorphic Robot with Distributed power. He hopes to send BiRoDs (pronounced BYE RODS) to Mars and other distant points in the solar system where they will probe, dig, photograph, analyze and generally explore the planets, moons and asteroids.

"BiRoDs are much simpler than robots you have seen in the past," Ramohalli explains.

Look under BiRoD's hood and you'll see it doesn't have gears, servos and other complex mechanical systems. Instead, you find shiny, thin wires and springs known as muscle wires and muscle springs. Hook these wires or springs to a battery and they contract, mechanically mimicking the actions of muscles. They contract because the current flowing through muscle wires causes their molecules to rearrange themselves in a smaller space.

Muscle wires respond in milliseconds or less, can carry 17,000 times their weight and will go through millions of cycles without failing.

Using muscle wires to animate robots has many advantages, Ramohalli notes.

First, getting rid of all those gears, servos and other mechanical parts makes BiRoDs both lighter and much less complex. That means they are less likely to fail and more BiRoDs can be sent in the cargo hold of a spacecraft. For example, 25 BiRoDs would occupy the same space and payload weight that the single Sojourner robot needed on the Mars Pathfinder mission. With more robots, planetary scientists can gather more data, and if one of the robots breaks down, others can take its place.

BiRoDs also are more reliable because they are not as sensitive to dust and other enemies of mechanical systems. "We don't have to provide the kind of protection from the fine, powdery dust found on Mars that is needed by gears and servos," says AME junior Doug Steibich, one of the students who is working on the BiRoD project.

"To me, the most important thing is that power is distributed," Ramohalli adds. "Everything doesn't depend on central control. So if one leg stops working, everything doesn't jam up and freeze. BiRoD can limp along on the other legs."

Currently, the BiRoD prototype has two front legs and two unpowered rear wheels that roll along as the front legs propel it. Soon, however, Ramohalli's BiRoD team plans to replace the rear wheel/leg combination with two more powered legs. This will allow it to walk over obstacles, turn within its own body length, and complete many maneuvers that leave wheeled vehicles in the dust.

The prototype BiRoD also has infrared vision that enables it to avoid obstacles even in complete darkness.

BiRoDs will change the way scientists think about robotic capabilities and how they use them in the field. Unlike most robots, BiRoD can produce bursts of power -- again like a biological systems, less like machines. "You can store energy slowly and expend it suddenly," Ramohalli says. "Cats do this, for instance. They lie around much of the time, but then expend short bursts of energy to catch prey. They eat, store energy, and then are ready for another surge of power. Robots with this kind of capability can hop over an obstacle, turn over a rock or crush a mineral sample. These are things that today's robots can't do."

The BiRoD research is being conducted in the Space Engineering Research Center, which Ramohalli directs. The new technology concept for BiRoD has been filed with NASA. It is protected under a NASA Novel Technology Report.

Related link: http://scorpio.aml.arizona.edu/projects.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Arizona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Arizona. "Mimicking Muscles Mechanically Promises To Change The Way That Robots Explore The Solar System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990625075435.htm>.
University Of Arizona. (1999, June 25). Mimicking Muscles Mechanically Promises To Change The Way That Robots Explore The Solar System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990625075435.htm
University Of Arizona. "Mimicking Muscles Mechanically Promises To Change The Way That Robots Explore The Solar System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990625075435.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins