The Meshworm. (Photo : MIT)
So what is our government really up to nowadays? Sure there's a couple ongoing conflicts, an economic and security crisis, and a presidential election. But what's going on behind closed doors? Turns out that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been hard at work creating a new soldier: a robotic worm named the Meshworm.
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The Meshworm is designed to be indestructible and can move along at a speed of five millimeters per second. Try and step on it, hammer it, or impede it, and it will simply keep trudging along.
"You can throw it, and it won't collapse," said Sangbae Kim , MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering to MITNews. "Most mechanical parts are rigid and fragile at small scale, but the parts in Meshworms are all fibrous and flexible. The muscles are soft, and the body is soft ... we're starting to show some body-morphing capability."
The robot is made from a flexible mesh tube. Using nickel and titanium wires, the researchers figured out how to mimic the movement of real worms and the way food travels down your throat by using heat to expand and contract the wormbot.
The uses for this kind of a robot are many. While war-heavy heads will immediately think of reconnaissance and other wartime efforts, there are more peaceful missions the wormbot can accomplish. Scientists are enthusiastic that it could be used in medical procedures such as endoscopes. Prosthetics and implants aren't out of the question either.
The researchers don't intend on stopping there, however.
"Even though the robot's body is much simpler than a real worm - it has only a few segments - it appears to have quite impressive performance. I predict that in the next decade we will see shape-changing artificial muscles in many products, such as mobile phones, portable computers and automobiles," says Kellar Autumn from Lewis and Clark University.
Watch the Meshworm in action: