Robots can now morph into different shapes, switching between land and air vehicles, as well as self-heal. These robots can better withstand environmental forces and navigate physical obstacles. This breakthrough widely broadens the applications for multi-functional robots.
The creators designed the morphing structure using rubber embedded with a low melting point alloy mesh and tendril-like heaters. These heaters cause the alloy to melt when activated, allowing the rubber to change its shape. The structure becomes more rigid again when the metal cools.
"These composites are strong enough to withstand the forces from motors or propulsion systems, yet can readily shape morph, which allows machines to adapt to their environment," said Edward J. Barron III, co-author and graduate student at Virginia Tech.
A robot that can change shape while still possessing a rigid structure to perform the designed function will revolutionize the soft robotics field. Creating self-healing adaptable machines widen the functions possible in each robot, increases resiliency, and inspires countless previously impossible applications.