A nature-inspired robot uses the water it swims in to create a propellant and launch itself into flight.
The hybrid robot, capable of making 26-meter “leaps” out of the water once it takes off, can be used to collect water samples in polluted environments, or to understand the effects of a flood.
The device capable of switching from 'floating' to flying mode is ideal in these situations, but usually requires too much power, which is difficult to obtain for small systems.
Today, researchers from Imperial College London have invented a system that requires only 0.2 grams of calcium carbide. The only moving part of the whole robot is a small pump that extracts the water and puts it into a combustion chamber.
Water and calcium carbide thus combine in the combustion chamber, producing a flammable acetylene gas. The expansion of this gas 'shoots' the robot away from the water like a jet.
The details of the research were published in Science Robotics.
The dr. Mirko kovac, director of the Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College and head of research, says: “The water-to-air transition is an intensive process, difficult to achieve on a small scale for aircraft that must necessarily be light. We used chemicals that react with water to reduce the aircraft's equipment (and weight). The water itself acts like a piston, and we have created a complete combustion cycle with only one moving part ”.
The team tested the hybrid robot in the laboratory, in a lake and in a wave pool, observing how the reaction and the flight take place even in extreme conditions, with stresses even 25 times stronger than the total weight of the device (160 grams).
Before refilling your water tank the robot can repeat the 26-meter "mini flight" several times. A way to travel relatively long distances without electricity and without the energy expenditure of much more complex solutions.
The team is working with the Swiss Federal Laboratories of Technology and Materials Science (EMPA) to build new vehicles with the same principle, and to experiment with different materials and scenarios (such as ocean oil platforms or coral reefs).
Raphael Zufferey, co-author of the research, says: "This type of cordless robot can be really useful in hard-to-monitor environments."
This is a job for a fish with wings!
- R. Zufferey, A. Ortega Ancel, A. Farinha, R. Siddall, SF Armanini, M. Nasr, RV Brahmal, G. Kennedy and M. Kovac. Consecutive aquatic jump-gliding with water-reactive fuel. Science Robotics, 2019 DOI: 10.1126 / scirobotics.aax7330