New Robot Inspired by Earthworms Can help in future underground explorations

By: | March 7th, 2023

The Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa has created a new bio-inspired robot, that mimics the locomotion of earthworms. 

For developing this robot, the team of researchers led by Prof. Barbara Mazzolai set out to reproduce the mechanism, the way earthworms move through the soil. They considered the morphology of earthworms and mimicked their muscle movements, their constant volume coelomic chambers, and the function of their bristle-like hairs (setae).

The robot can move with the help of soft actuators that elongate or squeeze when air passes through them or is drawn out. 

The current prototype is 45 cm (17.7-in)-long and is made up of five connected “peristaltic soft actuators” (PSAs). These PSAs help in implementing the antagonistic muscle movements of earthworms. Each one of these comprises an inner bellows pipe, an outer soft elastomer skin, and a viscous fluid that is sealed in the space between the two.

Researchers also used small passive friction pads inspired by earthworm setae to propel the robot on a planar surface.

Researchers foresee that these robots have vast potential applications like underground exploration, excavation, search and rescue missions, and extra-terrestrial exploration.

A paper on their research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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