Researchers at Cornell University in New York have developed a remarkable frog-like robot that employs tiny explosions as a power source, enabling it to jump 20x its own length and carry a load 22x its weight. Unlike traditional robots relying on electric motors and batteries, this innovative creation harnesses methane as a chemical fuel, offering higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries and enabling miniaturization to insect-sized proportions.
The core of this invention is a 3D-printed combustion chamber, weighing a mere 325 milligrams, containing a mixture of methane and oxygen. A spark generated by a pair of electrodes ignites this mixture, resulting in a controlled explosion that exerts a force of 9.5 newtons on a flexible membrane.
The membrane rapidly expands during each explosion but safely confines the gases, which are vented as it contracts. Remarkably, the actuator can generate up to 100 such explosions per second, exhibiting impressive durability during extensive testing.
The research team then integrated two of these combustion chambers into a four-legged prototype robot, linking them to expanding membranes on one of its feet. Fuel was supplied remotely through thin pipes. The tests demonstrated that the robot could move loads 22 times its weight, offering the potential for onboard fuel storage in the future.
Measuring just 29 millimeters in length and weighing 1.6 grams, this robot possesses astonishing capabilities — It can achieve a jump height of 56 centimeters, hop forward 16 centimeters, crawl or hop on various surfaces at speeds up to 16.9 centimeters per second, and navigate in different directions by triggering one combustion chamber at a time.
The versatility and compact design of this explosive-powered robot make it suitable for diverse applications, from search-and-rescue missions to planetary exploration. Its low-cost production potential and impressive performance highlight the promising future of explosive-powered robotics in a variety of fields.
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