Snake-inspired robot gets kirigami skin

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American scientists have developed a snake-inspired robot that moves thanks to skin made from kirigami. Kirigami is a variation of origami where paper is cut instead of folded.

The robot, which was designed by scientists at Harvard SEAS, can move along the ground using the kirigami technique in a way that is somewhat similar to the movement of a real snake. When the tube is stretched, protrusions come to the surface that provide grip on the ground. Those protrusions are the result of the cutting in the material.

The robo snake is a further development of an existing model. For that first generation, the scientists rolled up a flat kirigami plane with the protrusions surfacing simultaneously when stretched.

With the new model, the length of the cut lines varies and the curvature of the cylinder changes, so that the pop-up of parts with protrusions is no longer uniform but phased. For example, the researchers managed to make the surface of the anterior part of the skin stick out, followed by a sort of peristaltic movement from the back. This would provide the best locomotion results.

These kinds of techniques could be used for applications involving smart skin or responsive surfaces, according to the researchers. They also mention possible application for laparoscopy, or inspection of the abdominal cavity.

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