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Gecko-inspired adhesives help soft robotic fingers get better grip

Press Trust of India  |  Los Angeles 

Scientists have developed a robotic gripper that combines the properties of toes and the adaptability of air-powered soft robots to grasp a wide variety of objects.

The gripper can lift up to 20 kilogrammes of weight and could be used to grasp objects in a wide range of settings, from factory floors to the (ISS), according to researchers at the in the US.

Geckos are known as nature's best climbers because of a sophisticated gripping mechanism on their toes.

In previous work, researchers at and in the US recreated that mechanism with a synthetic material called a gecko-inspired

This material was used primarily on flat surfaces like walls.

"We realised that these two components, soft and adhesives, complement each other really well," said Paul Glick, a PhD student at UC

The team coated the fingers of a soft robotic gripper with the adhesive, allowing it to get a firmer grasp on a wide range of objects, including pipes and mugs, while still being able to handle rough objects like rocks.

The gripper can also grasp objects in various positions, for example gripping a mug at many different angles.

Researchers demonstrated that the gripper could grasp and manipulate rough, porous and dirty objects, such as volcanic rocks - a task that is typically challenging for gecko adhesives.

It also was able to pick up pieces of large, cylindrical pipe - a task typically difficult for soft robotic grippers.

Since gecko adhesives are powered by molecular interactions between surfaces, they work best when they have a large contact surface area, researchers said.

Coating the inside of the soft robotic fingers with these adhesives maximises the amount of surface area they make contact with, ensuring a better grip, they said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 10 2018. 16:05 IST