Robot Inspired by Cockroach is Hard to Squash

Posted on August 1, 2019

Tiny and thin piezoelectric robot

You probably can't squash this cockroach-inspired robot because it is so flat. The robot created by University of California, Berkeley researchers can also move at nearly the speed of a darting cockroach.

The tiny new bot is about the size of a postage stamp. It weighs less than one tenth of gram yet can withstand the weight of a human (around 60 kg). It is is made of a thin sheet of a piezoelectric material called polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). It moves using a leapfrogging motion. It can even carry a peanut. The robot is described in a paper published in Science Robotics.

Liwei Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley and senior author of a new study, says in the announcement, "Most of the robots at this particular small scale are very fragile. If you step on them, you pretty much destroy the robot. We found that if we put weight on our robot, it still more or less functions."

Lin also says, "People may have experienced that, if you step on the cockroach, you may have to grind it up a little bit, otherwise the cockroach may still survive and run away. Somebody stepping on our robot is applying an extraordinarily large weight, but [the robot] still works, it still functions. So, in that particular sense, it's very similar to a cockroach."

The researchers say it could squeeze into small dangerous places and be used to detect fumes. Take a look: