New Scientist reports that Engineer Jordan Boyle from the University of Leeds has developed a “Roboworm” that can be used to burrow into small spaces. Such a device would be invaluable for earthquake rescues, where victims might be trapped under tons of rubble.
While there are existing devices that can probe rubble piles, the Roboworm is unique as it is designed from a living creature: the Nematode. Boyle studied this simple bioform and replicated its locomotion technique, which turns out to be a straightforward use of “stretch sensors” along the sides of the worm. This enables it to deftly navigate around corners, as you’ll see in the video.
The worm itself was 3D printed in segments on a commercial 3D printer – in nylon, making it much less expensive than metal equivalents, yet still retaining strength. The prototype Roboworm was three meters long, but operational Roboworms would necessarily be much smaller.
Via New Scientist