By Gwyn Wright via SWNS
New robots - called "butterfly bots" - can SWIM four times faster than existing ones.
The machines get their name because the way they swim resembles the way a person’s arms move when they're doing the butterfly stroke.
The flapping gadgets are energy-efficient, soft and inspired by the biomechanics of manta ray fish, say the American researchers, who developed two types of butterfly bots.
One, which was specifically designed for speed, was able to reach average speeds of 3.74 body lengths per second.
It has only one “drive unit” – the soft body – which controls both of its wings. This makes it very fast, but difficult to turn left or right.
Another, which was highly maneuverable, was capable of making sharp turns to the right or left and was able to reach speeds of 1.7 body lengths per second.
It essentially has two drive units, which are connected side by side. This design allows users to manipulate the wings on both sides, or to “flap” only one wing, which is what enables it to make sharp turns.
Study corresponding author Dr. Jie Yin, of North Carolina State University, said: “To date, swimming soft robots have not been able to swim faster than one body length per second, but marine animals – such as manta rays – are able to swim much faster, and much more efficiently.
“We wanted to draw on the biomechanics of these animals to see if we could develop faster, more energy-efficient soft robots.
“The prototypes we’ve developed work exceptionally well.”
First author Dr. Yinding Chi added: “Researchers who study aerodynamics and biomechanics use something called a Strouhal number to assess the energy efficiency of flying and swimming animals. “
“Peak propulsive efficiency occurs when an animal swims or flies with a Strouhal number of between 0.2 and 0.4. Both of our butterfly bots had Strouhal numbers in this range.”
“Both of our butterfly bots had Strouhal numbers in this range.”
Butterfly bots get their swimming power from their wings which are similar to hair clips.
Like hair clips, the wings are “bistable”, which means they are stable until a certain amount of energy is applied to them by bending.
When the amount of energy reaches a critical point, the hair clip snaps into a different shape – which is also stable.
In the butterfly bots, the hair clip-inspired wings are attached to a soft, silicone body.
Users control the switch between the two stable states in the wings by pumping air into chambers inside the soft body.
As those chambers inflate and deflate, the body bends up and down – forcing the wings to snap back and forth with it.
Dr. Yin added: “Most previous attempts to develop flapping robots have focused on using motors to provide power directly to the wings.
“Our approach uses bistable wings that are passively driven by moving the central body.
“This is an important distinction because it allows for a simplified design, which lowers the weight.
“This work is an exciting proof of concept, but it has limitations.
“Most obviously, the current prototypes are tethered by slender tubing, which is what we use to pump air into the central bodies.
“We’re currently working to develop an untethered, autonomous version.”
The findings were published in the journal Science Advances.
Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email [email protected] or submit an inquiry via our contact form.
Newly discovered type of ice could hold key to finding alien life
"This could be the starting point for finally explaining liquid water."
Electric cars really do reduce air pollution and boost public health: study
Scientists said asthma attacks and other respiratory problems fall as more electric cars are on the road.
Texas cold snap creates roads fit for ice skating
The wintry conditions have left much of the state dealing with the fallout of the unusually low temperatures.
Study finds a ‘gay glass ceiling’
"This is an example of internalized homophobia among the gay community and it impacts opportunities for these gay men.”
Psychic mom who connects celebrities with deceased loved ones
“I had a lot of dreams from people telling me to use my gift - and that's what I did.”
- Money6 days ago
A third of adults admit their parents still pay one of their bills
- Outer Space3 days ago
NASA planning mission to asteroid that could be worth more than global economy
- Pets3 days ago
4 in 5 claim their pets are bigger sports fans than them
- Fashion & Beauty1 week ago
Clothing line tricks A.I. into thinking wearer is an animal
- Animals1 week ago
Photographer captures moment zebra is born
- Health3 days ago
New treatment for auto-immune diseases in the works
- Art6 days ago
Artist creates 100-foot-long sea serpent in sand
- Cars2 days ago
Sci-fi-style electric vehicle entirely powered by the sun launches