Research

Insect-Inspired Flight

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Insects are incredibly agile and resilient fliers, capable of colliding and recovering without damage. Engineers are only beginning to capture these characteristics in their robots. Here, engineers use a soft actuator — a rubber cylinder coated in carbon nanotubes — to drive their robot’s flight. When voltage is applied across the carbon nanotubes, the rubber squeezes and stretches, causing the robot’s wings to flap. These soft actuators are far less fragile than hard ones, allowing the robots to take hits and keep flapping, much like the real insects. (Image and video credit: MIT News; research credit: K. Chen et al.)

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