Soft Robot Powered By Shape Memory Alloy Spokes

A remarkable new kind of robotic locomotion has emerged in the form of small "robots" that are constructed in the shape of a wheel. The spokes are made of a shape memory alloy; the rim of the wheel is made of an elastic polymer. Here's how they work, starting out with a circular shape at rest:

  1. An electric current is passed through a selected spoke. Shape memory alloy stores energy in the form of stresses in its crystalline structure. The current heats the spoke, releasing this energy, making the spoke shorter.
  2. The elastic polymer rim deforms as the center of gravity of the wheel is altered; the robot moves forward slightly.
  3. As current is withdrawn from the initial spoke, causing it to straighten, current is applied to the next spoke causing it to shorten. The wheel moves forward a bit more.

(From Soft Robot home page)

As this cycle is continued and developed, the wheel-shaped robot moves smoothly forward. The creators of the robot, Shinichi Hirai and Yuuta Sugiyama at Ritsumeikan University in Kusatsu, claim that by combining three wheels perpendicular to each other, a ball-shaped fully steerable robot could be created.

This invention reminds me very strongly of the Smart Wheels from Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snowcrash. The basic idea of smart wheels is that they consisted of telescoping spokes that altered their length based on road conditions, smoothing your ride over potholes and bumps by lengthening and shortening, respectively.

Update: 21-Oct-2016: The first time I read about the idea of a shape memory alloy was in Samuel R. Delany's 1966 novel Babel-17; see the entry for tensile memory polarized matter. End update.

See Robotic wheels that just keep rolling and Soft Robot home page for more information.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/3/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 6 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

Reachy Humanoid VR Teleoperation App
"I went to the control room where the three other men were manipulating their mechanical men...' - AG Stangland, 1929.

Unitree A1 Robot ala Black Mirror and Snow Crash
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power...' - Neal Stephenson, 1992.

BladeBUG Robots Clean Massive Wind Turbine Blades
'There were the cleaners, with large padded feet, who were apparently polishing their way the whole length...' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

IceBot Antarctic (Planetary?) Robotic Explorers Made Of Ice
'Some will combine in place to form more complicated structures, like excavators or centipedes.' - Greg Bear, 2015

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Las Vegas Tunnels To Have Autonomous Teslas
'...just a steady velvety whirr as the taxi sped along.'

TCL CSOT 17-Inch Printed OLED Scrolling Display
'..a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling colour.'

Reachy Humanoid VR Teleoperation App
"I went to the control room where the three other men were manipulating their mechanical men...'

Unitree A1 Robot ala Black Mirror and Snow Crash
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power...'

DALL-E Makes Creative Images From Text
Okay, sf fans. If you could have some art created from a science fiction sentence, what sentence would you pick?

BladeBUG Robots Clean Massive Wind Turbine Blades
'There were the cleaners, with large padded feet, who were apparently polishing their way the whole length...'

Looms To Manually Weave Lunar Rover Wheels
It's fascinating to me how the Apollo program forced people to think outside their usual boxes.

IceBot Antarctic (Planetary?) Robotic Explorers Made Of Ice
'Some will combine in place to form more complicated structures, like excavators or centipedes.'

Glad 2020 Is Over
Maybe you missed one of these?

PEDOT Polymer Could Enhance Brain-Machine Interfaces
'the hair-fine wire going deep into Owen's brain, down into the pleasure center.'

Study: Robots Encourage Humans To Take Risks
Not exactly Three Laws compliant.

Kinetic Buildings And Psychotropic Houses
'There was a dim whirring, and the spheres tipped and began to rotate...'

Jupe Urban Escape Pods Have Tesla, SpaceX Roots
'The houses are prefabricated units... and they sell at the flat rate of five hundred dollars a room set up.'

Best Robot Dance Video Of 2020
'I can Mashed Potato... I can do the Twist.'

Vertical Farm In Singapore's Output Is 1.5 Tons Per Day
'A towering eighty-story structure like the office "In-and-Out" baskets stacked up to the sky.'

3D Printed 'Blisk' Manufactured In Orbit
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.