Jumping Soft Actuator Inspired by Children's Toy
When the structure of a toy popper buckles, the energy released sends the toy flying through the air. Now, researchers at Harvard have harnessed that energy and used "buckling" to their advantage to build a fast-moving, inflatable soft actuator. The team designed the actuators with two spherical caps nestled together and connected at the base. Upon inflation, pressure builds up between the two caps. The thinner outer cap expands up while the thicker inner cap buckles and collapses, hitting the ground and launching the device into the air. A hopping soft robot can harness the same physics as a toy popper.