Engineers at the Biomimetic Devices Laboratory (BDL) at Tufts University (Medford, MA) are developing biologically-based technologies that use soft materials to incorporate them into a new type of highly flexible robot. These machines could have applications in biomedical diagnosis and surgery, emergency rescue, exploration, and for monitoring or repairing space vehicles. Devices based on these technologies may improve the versatility and performance of conventional hard-bodied robots.

Prototypes look and move much like caterpillars. The BDL robots have a skin made of a silicone rubber, and wriggle forward via springs. As a current is passed through a spring, it contracts, bending the robot.

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