Meshworm: DARPA’s Biomimetic, Autonomous Worm-Bot Uses Peristalsis to Explore Its World
The machine is an artificial muscle made up of a polymer mesh tube wrapped with nickel-titanium wire. It runs on an internal battery and circuit board.
When a small electric current is applied to parts of the wire, it heats up, making the wire pliable but only enough so that it returns to its original shape after bending. The researchers developed algorithms that control the heating or cooling to parts of the wire, in effect directing the motion of the worm.
Meanwhile, wires that run the length of the worm make it go left or right with temperature changes.
Meshworm is simple compared with a real worm, but the technology could see widespread use even in consumer electronics, MIT quoted Lewis & Clark College biology professor Kellar Autumn as saying. “I predict that in the next decade we will see shape-changing artificial muscles in many products, such as mobile phones, portable computers, and automobiles,” Autumn said.