How snakes are helping scientists build energy-efficient robots

Georgia Tech researchers aiming to design a compact all-terrain robot that can go anywhere without using large amounts of power turned to snakes for some energy-efficiency inspiration.

Georgia Tech researchers aiming to design a compact all-terrain robot that can go anywhere without using large amounts of power turned to snakes for some energy-efficiency inspiration.

Hamid Marvi, a mechanical engineering doctoral candidate at Georgia Tech, studied and videotaped the movements of 20 different snake species. From his observations, Scalybot 2 -- a robot that replicates rectilinear locomotion of snakes -- was born.

Snakes don't need to bend their bodies laterally to move. Instead, they lift their ventral scales and pull themselves forward by sending a muscular traveling wave from heard to tail, Marvi said in a release from Georgia Tech. Using rectilinear locomotion, the Scalybot 2 can automatically change the angle of its scales when it encounters different terrains and slopes. This adjustment allows the robot to fight or generate friction, according to Georgia Tech.

Don't expect a robot that glides and slithers just like a snake. The Scalybot 2 is primitive compared to a snake's movement. Check out the video below to see the Scalybot 2 in motion. Still, the Scalybot 2 shows how nature can provide a template for energy efficiency .

Photo: Flickr user nasmac, CC 2.0; Georgia Tech University

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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