Keep up with the news by installing RT’s extension for . Never miss a story with this clean and simple app that delivers the latest headlines to you.

 

Crawling gecko robot may help tend spacecraft one day (VIDEO)

Published time: January 02, 2014 22:33
Edited time: January 03, 2014 05:53
A handout photo released by the European Space Agency the six-legged Abigaille climbing robot, able to transition from vertical to horizontal surfaces. (AFP Photo)

A handout photo released by the European Space Agency the six-legged Abigaille climbing robot, able to transition from vertical to horizontal surfaces. (AFP Photo)

Canadian researchers have built a gecko-like robot, which is able to stick to vertical surfaces by means of dry microscopic toe hair. European scientists say it could one day be deployed in space to help tend the hulls of spacecraft.

As the International Space Station crew spend hours on spacewalks for maintenance operations, European Space Agency (ESA) have been testing a Canadian-made robot that could soon spare the astronauts the trouble of going out into the void at least for some of the work.

That’s after the development of an innovative approach for mounting the machines onto the delicate surface of moving spacecraft by researchers at Canada’s Simon Fraser University.

Their pet project is a six-legged climbing robot that uses the same principle of sticking to surfaces as little lizards, known for their ability to climb walls and windows without leaving a trace.

Robot foot (Image from esa.int)

Nicknamed Abigaille, the 240-gram gecko-bot is “an example of biomimicry, taking engineering solutions from the natural world,” the research team’s leader Mike Henrey explains.

The lizard does the trick through millions of microscopic hairs known as setae, which interact with the surface and create a molecular attraction known as the van der Waals force. Gecko’s setae are just 100-200 nanometers in diameter – about 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

The robot makes use of the same technique in the design of its footpads, developed with the help of the micro-electronics industry.

Microscopic view of robot footpad (Image from esa.int)

“Technical limitations mean these are around 100 times larger than a gecko’s hairs, but they are sufficient to support our robot’s weight,” Henrey comments.

While the prototype robot is still far from being a perfect climbing machine, moving at a speed of about 24 millimeters per minute, it represents a very promising innovation, according to ESA researchers.

ESA’s European Space and Technology Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, has put the robotic gecko through trials at a materials-testing lab, replicating the vacuum and temperatures of space.

The tests found that the “dry adhesive” employed by Abigaille works a charm.

“A depth-sensing indentation instrument was used inside a vacuum chamber to precisely assess the dry adhesive’s sticking performance... Experimental success means deployment in space might one day be possible,” ESA specialist Laurent Pambaguian said in a press release.

The reason why the scientists are so interested in gecko-mimicking technology is because common adhesive methods like sticky tapes, Velcro or magnets are not suitable for the space environment and could damage or interfere with a spacecraft, developer Henrey notes.

Abigaille is also far more dexterous than existing wheeled bots as each of its six legs have four degrees of freedom, easily shifting from horizontal to vertical positions.

The robotic gecko is yet to be thoroughly tested, including in zero-gravity conditions.

According to Henrey, “It’s very expensive to upgrade hardware once it is up in space so the idea would be to fly a more general robot in the first place. This could then be adapted through software upgrades for different tasks that weren’t anticipated at the start of the project.”

Agile climber (Image from esa.int)

Comments (3)

 

awe130 26.07.2014 21:30

Are the Russian testing radiation in space? Why is the satellite not in a higher orbit? The truth is that the Gecko's would die if the orbit was higher. The deadly van Allen radiation belts are the problem. NASA never ever did send man to the moon. You don't believe me?Fine, what about USA Colonel Corso an adviser of president Eisenhower. Russian elite lie as much as the USA elite. Colonel Corso did speak the truth man cannot travel beyond the deadly van Alen belts.
Google "Corso man can't travel in space" for the truth!

 

Alex Semiletow 03.01.2014 16:47

Frank Fileccia 03.01.2014 02:33

Great idea, although I'm sure the NSA will start using it first to plant secret microphones and cameras

  


You forgot the explosives, poisons, planting drugs in the homes of "undesirables&q uot;, the sky is the limit!

 

Frank Fileccia 03.01.2014 02:33

Great idea, although I'm sure the NSA will start using it first to plant secret microphones and cameras

Add comment

Authorization required for adding comments

Register or

Name

Password

Show password

Register

or Register

Request a new password

Send

or Register

To complete a registration check
your Email:

OK

or Register

A password has been sent to your email address

Edit profile

X

Name

New password

Retype new password

Current password

Save

Cancel

Follow us

Follow us