Cornell University researchers have created a system using “robot blood”, the circulating liquid within robotic structures to store energy and power long-duration robotic tasks.
The “robot blood” increases the system energy density of soft robots such as aquatic robots for sophisticated, long-duration tasks.
Achieving long-duration robotic tasks
Rob Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, said: “In nature we see how long organisms can operate while doing sophisticated tasks. Robots can’t perform similar feats for very long. Our bio-inspired approach can dramatically increase the system’s energy density while allowing soft robots to remain mobile for far longer.”
What is the ”robot blood”?
The researchers have created a synthetic vascular system which pumps energy-dense hydraulic liquid which they have called “robot blood.” The hydraulic liquid has an integrated design which achieves the following:
- Transmits force;
- Operates appendages; and
- Provides structure.
The robot lionfish
The system for robot blood was tested on an aquatic soft robot inspired by a lionfish designed by co-author James Pikul. Lionfish use undulating fins to glide through coral reefs.
The aquatic soft robot has silicone skin on the outside, flexible electrodes and an ion separator membrane for bending and flexing. The onboard pumps and electronics are powered by zinc-iodide flow cell batteries through electrochemical reactions.
According to Cornell, “underwater soft robots offer tantalizing possibilities for research and exploration. Since aquatic soft robots are supported by buoyancy, they don’t require an exoskeleton or endoskeleton to maintain structure. By designing power sources that give robots the ability to function for longer stretches of time, Shepherd thinks autonomous robots could soon be roaming Earth’s oceans on vital scientific missions and for delicate environmental tasks like sampling coral reefs. These devices could also be sent to extraterrestrial worlds for underwater reconnaissance missions.”
The paper “Electrolytic Vascular Systems for Energy Dense Robots,” is published in Nature.