Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators

Popcorn is a cheap, biodegradable way to actuate a robot (once)

It’s not that often that I can steal the title of a paper and use it for a blog article that people will actually read, but I think “Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators” totally works, so credit for that to Steven Ceron at Cornell University who’s the first author on this paper, presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May. Let’s see what else I can steal from it:

Popcorn kernels are a natural, edible, and inexpensive material that has the potential to rapidly expand with high force upon application of heat. Although this transition is irreversible, it carries potential for several robotic applications. As kernels can change from regular to (larger) irregular shapes, we examine the change in inter-granular friction and propose their use as granular fluids in jamming actuators, without the need for a vacuum pump. Furthermore, as a proof-of-concept, we also demonstrate the use of popcorn-driven actuation in soft, compliant, and rigidlink grippers. Serving as a first introduction of popcorn into robotics, we hope this paper will inspire novel mechanisms for multi-functional designs.


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