The researchers say they have created a device capable of outperforming any animal or mechanical machine on Earth or in space.
The jumper is capable of reaching Earth’s highest gravity height – approximately 100 feet – of any jumper to date, engineered or biological.
It was developed by UC Santa Barbara engineering professor Elliot Hawkes and his collaborators, who say it represents a new approach to jump apparatus design and advances the understanding of jumping as a form of locomotion.
Applications of the innovation could see jumping robots able to reach places where only flying robots currently reach. The benefits would also be more pronounced off Earth: hopping robots could travel efficiently across the moon or planets.
“The motivation came from a scientific question,” said Hawkes, who as a roboticist seeks to understand the many possible methods for a machine to navigate its environment. “We wanted to understand what the limits of technical riders were.”
Although there are centuries of studies on biological jumpers and decades of research on primarily bio-inspired mechanical jumpers, he said, the two lines of research have been somewhat separated.
“There really hadn’t been a study that compares and contrasts the two and how their limits are different — whether technical jumpers are really limited to the same laws as biological jumpers,” Hawkes said.
The study, published in the journal Nature, explains how the researchers took this knowledge and designed a jumper quite different from biological jumpers – the size of its spring relative to its motor is nearly 100 times larger than that found in animals. . In addition, they designed a new spring, seeking to maximize its energy storage per unit mass.
In their tension-compression hybrid spring, carbon fiber compression arcs are crushed while rubber bands are stretched by the pull of a line wrapped around a motorized axis. The team found that binding the edges of the arches outward in the middle with tension rubber also improved the strength of the spring.
“Amazingly, the rubber makes the compression spring stronger,” Hawkes said. “You can compress the spring more without it breaking.”
The jumper is also designed to be lightweight, with a minimal locking mechanism to release the energy needed for jumping, and aerodynamic, with the legs folding in to minimize air drag during flight.
Altogether, these design features allow it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 30 feet per second and reach the height of around 100 feet in the researchers’ demonstrations.
For powered jumpers, that’s “near the achievable limit of jump height with currently available materials,” according to the study.
This design and the ability to overcome the limitations set by biological designs paves the way for the reinvention of jumping as an efficient form of mechanical locomotion. Jumping robots could reach places that only flying robots currently reach.
The benefits would also be more pronounced off Earth: hopping robots can travel efficiently across the moon or planets, without facing obstacles on the surface, while gaining access to features and perspectives inaccessible to earth-based robots. field.
“We calculated that the device should be able to erase [410 feet] in height by jumping half a kilometer [a third of a mile] forward to the moon,” Hawkes said, pointing out that the lunar gravity is 1/6 that on Earth and there’s virtually no air drag. “That would be a giant leap for jumpers techniques.”
Biological systems have long served as the first and best models of locomotion, and this has been especially true for jumping, defined by researchers as “motion created by the forces applied to the ground by the jumper, while maintaining a constant mass” . Many engineering riders have focused on duplicating the designs provided by evolution, and with great effect.
But the elements that create a jump in a biological system can be limiting for engineered systems, said Charles Xaio, who holds a Ph.D. candidate in Hawkes’ lab.
“Biological systems can only jump with as much energy as they can produce in a single muscle stroke,” Xaio said. Thus, the system is limited in the amount of energy it can give to push the body off the ground, and the jumper can only jump so high.
What if there was a way to increase the amount of energy available? For technical jumpers there is: they are able to use motors that click or spin to take many hits, multiplying the amount of energy they can store in their spring. The researchers called this ability “labor multiplication,” which is found in technical sweaters of all shapes and sizes.
“This difference between energy production in biological jumpers and technical jumpers means the two would have to have very different designs to maximize jump height,” Xiao said. Animals must have a small spring – just enough to store the relatively small amount of energy produced by their muscle movement alone – and a large muscle mass. On the other hand, technical jumpers should have as big a spring as possible and a small motor.”
The research in this study was also conducted by Christopher Keeley and Matthew R. Begley at UCSB; Richard-Alexandre Peloquin and Morgan T. Pope of Disney Research, and Günter Niemeyer of Caltech.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.