The creepy little cockroach is one of the most despised creatures in the world. But these disgusting creatures have inspired a robot that could one day help find survivors after natural disasters or bombings. Inspired by cockroaches, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have developed a robot that could help in search and rescue missions. Robert Full of the UC-Berkeley said in a statement that roaches have taught us important design principles.
The robot mimics the way cockroaches compress their bodies
These tiny creatures have a remarkable ability to compress their jointed exoskeletons to one-quarter their normal size to move through crevices smaller than their height. Also, after getting inside the crevices, roaches scurried at 20 body lengths per second with their legs spread open to their sides. That is equivalent to a human walking at 113 kilometers per hour, said Kaushik Jayaram, a Harvard biologist who worked on the research while at UC-Berkeley.
Findings of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists used specially built obstacle course to observe how cockroaches scurry through tiny crevices. They found that cockroaches were about 13mm tall when walking freely, but were able to compress their bodies to 2.5mm to pass through the cracks.
Cockroach can withstand 900 times its body weight
What really surprised scientists was that the critters could withstand 900 times their body weight without getting hurt. That is equivalent to a 50kg human withstanding 45 tons on their head without being crushed. The observations of the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, inspired the design of a multi-legged robot called CRAM (Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms).
The prototype CRAM fits easily into the palm of your hand. With a collapsible shell, it can squeeze into crevices half its height. Robert Full said the robot would be perfect for search and rescue missions where there is a lot of unstable rubble. The prototype costs about $100. Mass producing the robot could bring down the cost to less than $10 apiece.