“Meshworm” Robotic Earthworm Crawls With Artificial Muscles

Scientists at MIT have come up with a new invention they are calling the Meshworm. Meshworm is a robotic soft earthworm which can crawl with scientifically engineered fake muscles. Meshworm isn’t like a typical earthworm though, it can be stepped on, pounded with a hammer and hit and it will still keep going. Scientists are hoping that soft robots like Meshworm will eventually be able to explore small tight spaces. The model could even have applications in electronics, endoscopes, implants and prosthetics.

Kellar Autumn, of Lewis and Clark College, said in the statement from MIT,

“Even though the robot’s body is much simpler than a real worm — it has only a few segments — it appears to have quite impressive performance. 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.”

Sangbae Kim, a mechanical engineer on the project said in an additional statement from MIT,

“You can throw it, and it won’t collapse. Most mechanical parts are rigid and fragile at small scale, but the parts in Meshworms are all fibrous and flexible. The muscles are soft, and the body is soft … we’re starting to show some body-morphing capability.”

Earthworms have an interesting grouping of muscles. They have muscles that wrap around the worms body to move it forward and backwards and another group that runs the length of the worm to move it left and right.
The researchers used a polymer mesh in order to replicate these muscle systems in the robot. A small battery and circuit board rushed heat up and down the mesh causing the “muscles” to expand and contract giving it movement like an earthworm.