This snail-inspired robot could climb walls

Credit: Tianqi Yue.

Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed a new robot that can climb walls, inspired by the way snails move.

This innovative robot uses a special sliding suction mechanism, similar to a snail’s mucus, which allows it to stick to and slide along surfaces.

The team from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory designed the robot to mimic a snail’s movement. Instead of using snail mucus, the robot uses water as a substitute.

This water helps the robot slide while also acting as an adhesive to stick to surfaces. The research was published on May 13 in the journal Nature Communications.

This new robot could change how we inspect hard-to-reach surfaces like wind turbine blades, ship hulls, aircraft, and skyscraper windows.

The sliding suction mechanism could also be useful in other fields, such as industrial gripping, climbing, and transportation.

Snails can slide across surfaces while carrying their heavy shells, thanks to their mucus. This mucus reduces friction and increases suction, allowing them to move smoothly.

Inspired by this, lead author Tianqi Yue and his team created a “sliding suction” mechanism for their robot. They optimized the robot’s suction cup and designed its mechanical system to achieve similar sliding abilities as snails.

The team demonstrated the robot’s capabilities by showing it could carry a 200-gram weight and avoid obstacles. Impressively, the robot can also carry up to 1 kilogram, which is ten times its own weight.

The sliding suction mechanism allows the lightweight robot to move vertically and upside down at high speeds without using energy to stick to the surface.

Tianqi Yue explained that the robot’s sliding suction mechanism offers several benefits. It uses low energy, has high adhesion efficiency and safety, can carry heavy loads, and is simple to use. Additionally, the water it leaves behind evaporates quickly, making it a clean climbing solution.

The researchers believe that this new sliding suction mechanism is a significant advancement in climbing robot technology.

It provides a novel and clean way for robots to climb, with potential applications in many industries.

This new technology could lead to the development of next-generation climbing robots that are more efficient and effective in navigating difficult-to-reach surfaces.

Source: University of Bristol.