Inchworm Robot Could Advance Wearables, Manufacturing, and Morphing Aircraft Wings

A research team from the University of Toronto that specializes in smart materials has developed a miniature soft robot that moves with inchworm-like motion. One part of the team's research focuses on electrothermal actuators (ETAs), devices made of specialized polymers that can be programmed to physically respond to thermal or electrical changes. The team has created an ETA with a three-dimensional resting state, and has used a thermal-induced, stress-relaxation and curing method that allows for many possibilities in shape and movement. In applying this technology to the robotics field, the researchers are creating soft robots that can curl and crawl. They believe these could one day replace the bulky robots found in manufacturing industries. These programmable shape-shifting soft robots could also be useful in aviation and wearable electronics. “In aerospace, we could see smart materials being the key to next-generation aircrafts with wings that morph," says lead researcher Hani Naguib.