A small robot inspired by gecko lizard able to adhere to most smooth surfaces, may soon climb into space to perform in place of astronauts perilous repairs, announced Thursday the European Space Agency ( ESA).
Micro-fibers that mimic hair
six legs of the machine are covered with special microfiber, an adhesive material “dry” imitating hairs which are those with the gecko. They work well in vacuum conditions and similar to that of the space temperature, explains the ESA in a statement.
“This approach is a good example of biomimicry, which will look for technological solutions in nature,” says team leader, Michael Henrey, Simon Fraser University in Canada. The end of the legs of the gecko is covered with millions of microscopic elastic hairs arranged in a certain order, which enable it to exploit a phenomenon called “van der Waals forces.”240 grams and six legs
This phenomenon, electrical interaction between molecules of low intensity can be explained by the laws of quantum physics to an infinitely small scale. It creates under the legs of the lizard compressive force able to “stick” to a window or a vertical smooth surface. The researchers were able to build a robot 240 grams, called Abigaille, whose six legs reproduce the same process.
While the bristles covering the legs of the gecko are much smaller than the robot – from 100 to 200 billionths of a meter in diameter, a thousand times smaller than a human hair – but more than enough to support the weight of the robot, as Michael Henrey.
Avoid outputs high risk
A series of tests conducted in the laboratories of the ESA in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, showed that it worked perfectly similar to those of space conditions. “This experimental success means that its deployment in space may be possible one day,” said Laurent Pambaguian, ESA scientist associated with the project.
could allow astronauts to avoid trips to high risk for repairs or other emergency operations outside of their craft, such as that conducted before Christmas by two Americans who had to rehabilitate a cooling system on the International Space Station (ISS).
Abigaille six legs are moving in four directions, which allows the robot gecko go without falling flat to a vertical wall surface. Unlike a wheeled robot, it could easily climb over obstacles peppering the circumference of a satellite that should fix ensures Michael Henrey.
“Improving hardware equipment once it is in space is very expensive, the idea would be to start by sending a fairly general robot, which could then be adapted, through software updates at different tasks that were not anticipated at the beginning of the project, “he explains.
J.M. (With AFP)