Chinese scientists have developed a tiny robot with “muscles” and “legs” that can crawl like an earthworm and move through pipes less than a centimeter in diameter. This is stated in the message of the Xinhua News Agency.
The robot weighs 2.2 grams, reaches a length of 47 mm and is powered by an electric cable. It could potentially be used to test narrow tubes of various shapes and materials inside aircraft engines or refinery machines, according to an article published in Science Robotics.
Researchers at Tsinghua University have assembled a pipeline inspection robot using durable elastomer to create artificial muscles and smart composite anchor blocks to create its legs.
Studies have shown that the robot moves more than one body length per second both horizontally and vertically due to elastomer contraction.
At the same time, it is able to move through pipes of various shapes, including L-shaped and spiral pipes with a variable diameter, as well as through pipes filled with air or oil.
The researchers use magnets to quickly assemble the robot’s modular parts, giving it the ability to easily adapt to the shape of a pipeline.
“In addition, the robot has a ‘soft body’, which allows it to adapt to various pipeline conditions,” said Zhao Huichan, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tsinghua University.
To better demonstrate the pipe inspection capabilities of the robot, the researchers mounted a small endoscopic camera on it and controlled it from the outside. He successfully inspected the pipe at different speeds.