This robot can go places most others cannot.
Simon Fraiser University researchers have taken a page from the gecko “walk on any surface” handbook and applied it to a robot that looks a bit like a tank.
If you’ve never seen a gecko just hanging out on glass, it’s rather amazing. Not a whole lot of animals the size of a gecko can manage to just stand there on glass like it’s nothing…
And that’s where these robot get their inspiration. Only instead of specially textured feet, the tank-like robot uses a unique dry adhesive.
As Discovery News reports, “For a climbing robot to be practical, it needs to adhere to surfaces without leaving a gooey trail. That’s why scientists are interested in dry adhesive methods, as opposed to wet adhesion, which may leave behind tacky or glue-like substances. The robot also needs to be able to traverse a wide range of surfaces. Some robots use suction, but that requires a lot of power pumping air. Other robots use claws, but those need something to grab onto. Some robots use magnets, but those only work with metal. That’s why the researchers decided to imitate the gecko, which is unique among vertebrates in its ability to scramble up vertical surfaces, no matter what the texture. Unlike animals that use claws to climb (squirrels, for instance), suction (some frogs) or even glue (a slug), a gecko sticks to walls and ceilings using the very force that attracts molecules together, called the Van der Waals force.”
The “Tailless Timing Belt Climbing Platform (TBCP-11)” can move from flat surfaces to vertical walls at speeds of up to 3.4 cm per second.