|Professor Barry Trimmer
Tufts to Develop Morphing "Chemical Robots"
MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. - Scientists at Tufts University have received a $3.3 million
contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to
develop chemical robots that will be so soft and squishy that they will be able
to squeeze into spaces as tiny as 1 centimeter, then morph back into something
10 times larger, and ultimately biodegrade.
advantages of using unmanned devices to conduct dangerous or difficult
operations are clear, and the U.S. has invested in such devices for years. But
today's rigid robots, constructed mostly of hard materials, are unable to
navigate complex environments with openings of arbitrary size and shape. They
are stymied by, say, a building whose only access points may be a crack under a
door or a conduit for an electrical cable.
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|Arts, sciences, and engineering
faculty members and graduate students
discuss ways to control the movements of the
soft-body robot. (photo by Melody Ko)
An Interdisciplinary Incubator
By focusing on how animals move, a group of Tufts researchers are changing
how we think about (and may one day build) robots.
"Located a half mile from the Tufts Medford campus at 200 Boston Avenue, the
Advanced Technology Laboratory acts as an incubator to bring researchers
together and speed up the evolution of ideas. Engineers use biological
principles to help design and build structures, which in turn give biologists
better ways to explain what they observe. Biomimetics, or mimicking nature,
specifically in the form of caterpillars, was just such an interdisciplinary
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