Using small explosions produced by a mix of methane and oxygen, researchers at Harvard have designed a soft robot that can leap as much as a foot in the air. The ability to jump could one day prove critical in allowing the robots to avoid obstacles during search and rescue operations. The robots are molded using soft silicone that allows them to stretch and flex. Where pneumatic robots are connected to tubing that pumps air, the jumping robots are connected to tubes that deliver a precisely controlled mix of methane and oxygen. Using high-voltage wires embedded in each leg of the robot, researchers deliver a spark to ignite the gases, causing a small explosion that sends the robot into the air.

Among the key design innovations that allowed the combustion system to work was the incorporation of a simple valve into each leg of the robot.


Also: Learn about claw-based technology for military robots.