Ring-Shaped Robot Can Cut a Rug, Crawl

A ring-sized robot created by a team at North Carolina State University can dance in place and crawl through a narrower-than-itself gap — even under water — when placed under heat. The ribbon ring is made of soft liquid crystal elastomer, while the motion is driven by the self-sustained snapping-induced repeated ring flipping inside out or vice versa.

“But by engineering the shape of the loop, so that one side of the loop is permanently twisted, the structure is asymmetrical,” says Jie Yin , corresponding author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State. “This means that the loop is exposed to the heat or infrared light unevenly, which causes the soft robot to move laterally across the surface.”