Monday, 14 November 2011

Wall-scaling tank-bot inspired by geckos

A tank-like robot that uses a gecko-inspired material to scale smooth surfaces like glass has been developed by a group of B.C. researchers.

Jeff Krahn, a research assistant in the engineering science department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. and his colleagues, demonstrated their new robot rolling up a whiteboard in a video posted on YouTube. The segmented robot has two tank-like treads at the back and two in the front, separated by a motorized joint. The design allows the robot to bend around a corner as it moves from a horizontal plexiglass surface and starts heading down a vertical one in the video.
The robot itself may not look much like a gecko, a small lizard famous for its sticky feet and its ability to run up and down slippery walls or even across the ceiling. But at a microscopic level, the tank treads are made of a material designed to imitate the stickiness of a gecko's feet.
The researchers suggest similar robots could make their way across slippery surfaces to scale normally inaccessible sites, so they could be used to inspect pipes and parts of buildings or airplanes, or be used in search and rescue operations.
The prototype was described in an article published this week in the journal Smart Materials and Structures.
By Emily Chung
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