Cockroaches traverse crevices, crawl rapidly in confined spaces, and inspire a soft, legged robot.
ABSTRACT: Jointed exoskeletons permit rapid appendage-driven locomotion but retain the soft-bodied, shape-changing ability to explore confined environments. We challenged cockroaches with horizontal crevices smaller than a quarter of their standing body height. Cockroaches rapidly traversed crevices in 300-800 ms by compressing their body 40-60%. High-speed videography revealed crevice negotiation to be a complex, discontinuous maneuver. After traversing horizontal crevices to enter a vertically confined space, cockroaches crawled at velocities approaching 60 cm?s(-1), despite body compression and postural changes. Running velocity, stride length, and stride period only decreased at the smallest crevice height (4 mm), whereas slipping and the probability of zigzag paths increased. To explain confined-space running performance limits, we altered ceiling and ground friction. Increased ceiling friction decreased velocity by decreasing stride length and increasing slipping. Increased ground friction resulted in velocity and stride length attaining a maximum at intermediate friction levels. These data support a model of an unexplored mode of locomotion--"body-friction legged crawling" with body drag, friction-dominated leg thrust, but no media flow as in air, water, or sand. To define the limits of body compression in confined spaces, we conducted dynamic compressive cycle tests on living animals. Exoskeletal strength allowed cockroaches to withstand forces 300 times body weight when traversing the smallest crevices and up to nearly 900 times body weight without injury. Cockroach exoskeletons provided biological inspiration for the manufacture of an origami-style, soft, legged robot that can locomote rapidly in both open and confined spaces.
Project description:Exceptional performance is often considered to be elegant and free of 'errors' or missteps. During the most extreme escape behaviours, neural control can approach or exceed its operating limits in response time and bandwidth. Here we show that small, rapid running cockroaches with robust exoskeletons select head-on collisions with obstacles to maintain the fastest escape speeds possible to transition up a vertical wall. Instead of avoidance, animals use their passive body shape and compliance to negotiate challenging environments. Cockroaches running at over 1 m or 50 body lengths per second transition from the floor to a vertical wall within 75 ms by using their head like an automobile bumper, mechanically mediating the manoeuvre. Inspired by the animal's behaviour, we demonstrate a passive, high-speed, mechanically mediated vertical transitions with a small, palm-sized legged robot. By creating a collision model for animal and human materials, we suggest a size dependence favouring mechanical mediation below 1 kg that we term the 'Haldane limit'. Relying on the mechanical control offered by soft exoskeletons represents a paradigm shift for understanding the control of small animals and the next generation of running, climbing and flying robots where the use of the body can off-load the demand for rapid sensing and actuation.
Project description:Adhesive organs on the legs of arthropods and vertebrates are strongly direction dependent, making contact only when pulled towards the body but detaching when pushed away from it. Here we show that the two types of attachment pads found in cockroaches (Nauphoeta cinerea), tarsal euplantulae and pretarsal arolium, serve fundamentally different functions. Video recordings of vertical climbing revealed that euplantulae are almost exclusively engaged with the substrate when legs are pushing, whereas arolia make contact when pulling. Thus, upward-climbing cockroaches used front leg arolia and hind leg euplantulae, whereas hind leg arolia and front leg euplantulae were engaged during downward climbing. Single-leg friction force measurements showed that the arolium and euplantulae have an opposite direction dependence. Euplantulae achieved maximum friction when pushed distally, whereas arolium forces were maximal during proximal pulls. This direction dependence was not explained by the variation of shear stress but by different contact areas during pushing or pulling. The changes in contact area result from the arrangement of the flexible tarsal chain, tending to detach the arolium when pushing and to peel off euplantulae when in tension. Our results suggest that the euplantulae in cockroaches are not adhesive organs but 'friction pads', mainly providing the necessary traction during locomotion.
Project description:ATP-powered viral packaging motors are among the most powerful biomotors known. Motor subunits arranged in a ring repeatedly grip and translocate the DNA to package viral genomes into capsids. Here, we use single DNA manipulation and rapid solution exchange to quantify how nucleotide binding regulates interactions between the bacteriophage T4 motor and DNA substrate. With no nucleotides, there is virtually no gripping and rapid slipping occurs with only minimal friction resisting. In contrast, binding of an ATP analog engages nearly continuous gripping. Occasional slips occur due to dissociation of the analog from a gripping motor subunit, or force-induced rupture of grip, but multiple other analog-bound subunits exert high friction that limits slipping. ADP induces comparably infrequent gripping and variable friction. Independent of nucleotides, slipping arrests when the end of the DNA is about to exit the capsid. This end-clamp mechanism increases the efficiency of packaging by making it essentially irreversible.
Project description:Assistive and rehabilitative powered exoskeletons for spinal cord injury (SCI) and stroke subjects have recently reached the clinic. Proper tension and joint alignment are critical to ensuring safety. Challenges still exist in adjustment and fitting, with most current systems depending on personnel experience for appropriate individual fastening. Paraplegia and tetraplegia patients using these devices have impaired sensation and cannot signal if straps are uncomfortable or painful. Excessive pressure and blood-flow restriction can lead to skin ulcers, necrotic tissue and infections. Tension must be just enough to prevent slipping and maintain posture. Research in pressure dynamics is extensive for wheelchairs and mattresses, but little research has been done on exoskeleton straps. We present a system to monitor pressure exerted by physical human-machine interfaces and provide data about levels of skin/body pressure in fastening straps. The system consists of sensing arrays, signal processing hardware with wireless transmission, and an interactive GUI. For validation, a lower-body powered exoskeleton carrying the full weight of users was used. Experimental trials were conducted with one SCI and one able-bodied subject. The system can help prevent skin injuries related to excessive pressure in mobility-impaired patients using powered exoskeletons, supporting functionality, independence and better overall quality of life.
Project description:During dynamic terrestrial locomotion, animals use complex multifunctional feet to extract friction from the environment. However, whether roboticists assume sufficient surface friction for locomotion or actively compensate for slipping, they use relatively simple point-contact feet. We seek to understand and extract the morphological adaptations of animal feet that contribute to enhancing friction on diverse surfaces, such as the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) [Bennet-Clark HC (1975) J Exp Biol 63:53-83], which has both wet adhesive pads and spines. A buckling region in their knee to accommodate slipping [Bayley TG, Sutton GP, Burrows M (2012) J Exp Biol 215:1151-1161], slow nerve conduction velocity (0.5-3 m/s) [Pearson KG, Stein RB, Malhotra SK (1970) J Exp Biol 53:299-316], and an ecological pressure to enhance jumping performance for survival [Hawlena D, Kress H, Dufresne ER, Schmitz OJ (2011) Funct Ecol 25:279-288] further suggest that the locust operates near the limits of its surface friction, but without sufficient time to actively control its feet. Therefore, all surface adaptation must be through passive mechanics (morphological intelligence), which are unknown. Here, we report the slipping behavior, dynamic attachment, passive mechanics, and interplay between the spines and adhesive pads, studied through both biological and robotic experiments, which contribute to the locust's ability to jump robustly from diverse surfaces. We found slipping to be surface-dependent and common (e.g., wood 1.32 ± 1.19 slips per jump), yet the morphological intelligence of the feet produces a significant chance to reengage the surface (e.g., wood 1.10 ± 1.13 reengagements per jump). Additionally, a discovered noncontact-type jump, further studied robotically, broadens the applicability of the morphological adaptations to both static and dynamic attachment.
Project description:Biofilms, surface-bound communities of microbes, are economically and medically important due to their pathogenic and obstructive properties. Among the numerous strategies to prevent bacterial adhesion and subsequent biofilm formation, surface topography was recently proposed as a highly nonspecific method that does not rely on small-molecule antibacterial compounds, which promote resistance. Here, we provide a detailed investigation of how the introduction of submicrometer crevices to a surface affects attachment of Escherichia coli. These crevices reduce substrate surface area available to the cell body but increase overall surface area. We have found that, during the first 2 h, adhesion to topographic surfaces is significantly reduced compared with flat controls, but this behavior abruptly reverses to significantly increased adhesion at longer exposures. We show that this reversal coincides with bacterially induced wetting transitions and that flagellar filaments aid in adhesion to these wetted topographic surfaces. We demonstrate that flagella are able to reach into crevices, access additional surface area, and produce a dense, fibrous network. Mutants lacking flagella show comparatively reduced adhesion. By varying substrate crevice sizes, we determine the conditions under which having flagella is most advantageous for adhesion. These findings strongly indicate that, in addition to their role in swimming motility, flagella are involved in attachment and can furthermore act as structural elements, enabling bacteria to overcome unfavorable surface topographies. This work contributes insights for the future design of antifouling surfaces and for improved understanding of bacterial behavior in native, structured environments.
Project description:Exoskeletons can influence human gait. A healthy gait is characterized by a certain amount of variability compared to a non-healthy gait that has more inherent variability; however which exoskeleton assistance parameters are necessary to avoid increasing gait variability or to potentially lower gait variability below that of unassisted walking are unknown. This study investigated the interaction effects of exoskeleton timing and power on gait variability. Ten healthy participants walked on a treadmill with bilateral ankle-foot exoskeletons under ten conditions with different timing (varied from 36% to 54% of the stride) and power (varied from 0.2 to 0.5 W?kg-1) combinations. We used the largest Lyapunov exponent (LyE) and maximum Floquet multiplier (FM) to evaluate the stride-to-stride fluctuations of the kinematic time series. We found the lowest LyE at the ankle and a significant reduction versus powered-off with exoskeleton power (summed for both legs) of 0.45 W?kg-1 and actuation timing at 48% of the stride cycle. At the knee, a significant positive effect of power and a negative interaction effect of power and timing were found for LyE. We found significant positive interaction effects of the square of timing and power for LyE at the knee and hip joints. In contrast, the FM at the ankle increased with increasing power and later timing. We found a significant negative effect of power and a positive interaction effect of power and timing for FM at the knee and no significant effects of any of the exoskeleton parameters for FM at the hip. The ability of the exoskeleton to reduce the LyE at the ankle joint offers new possibilities in terms of altering gait variability, which could have applications for using exoskeletons as rehabilitation devices. Further efforts could examine if it is possible to simultaneously reduce the LyE and FM at one or more lower limb joints.
Project description:The blood flow pathway within a device, together with the biomaterial surfaces and status of the patient's blood, are well-recognized factors in the development of thrombotic deposition and subsequent embolization. Blood flow patterns are of particular concern for devices such as blood pumps (i.e. ventricular assist devices, VADs) where shearing forces can be high, volumes are relatively large, and the flow fields can be complex. However, few studies have examined the effect of geometric irregularities on thrombus formation on clinically relevant opaque materials under flow. The objective of this study was to quantify human platelet deposition onto Ti6Al4V alloys, as well as positive and negative control surfaces, in the region of defined crevices (?50-150 ?m in width) that might be encountered in many VADs or other cardiovascular devices. To achieve this, reconstituted fresh human blood with hemoglobin-depleted red blood cells (to achieve optical clarity while maintaining relevant rheology), long working optics, and a custom designed parallel plate flow chamber were employed. The results showed that the least amount of platelet deposition occurred in the largest crevice size examined, which was counterintuitive. The greatest levels of deposition occurred in the 90 ?m and 53 ?m crevices at the lower wall shear rate. The results suggest that while crevices may be unavoidable in device manufacturing, the crevice size might be tailored, depending on the flow conditions, to reduce the risk of thromboembolic events. Further, these data might be used to improve the accuracy of predictive models of thrombotic deposition in cardiovascular devices to help optimize the blood flow path and reduce device thrombogenicity.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Powered ankle-foot exoskeletons can reduce the metabolic cost of human walking to below normal levels, but optimal assistance properties remain unclear. The purpose of this study was to test the effects of different assistance timing and power characteristics in an experiment with a tethered ankle-foot exoskeleton.<h4>Methods</h4>Ten healthy female subjects walked on a treadmill with bilateral ankle-foot exoskeletons in 10 different assistance conditions. Artificial pneumatic muscles assisted plantarflexion during ankle push-off using one of four actuation onset timings (36, 42, 48 and 54% of the stride) and three power levels (average positive exoskeleton power over a stride, summed for both legs, of 0.2, 0.4 and 0.5 W?kg<sup>-1</sup>). We compared metabolic rate, kinematics and electromyography (EMG) between conditions.<h4>Results</h4>Optimal assistance was achieved with an onset of 42% stride and average power of 0.4 W?kg<sup>-1</sup>, leading to 21% reduction in metabolic cost compared to walking with the exoskeleton deactivated and 12% reduction compared to normal walking without the exoskeleton. With suboptimal timing or power, the exoskeleton still reduced metabolic cost, but substantially less so. The relationship between timing, power and metabolic rate was well-characterized by a two-dimensional quadratic function. The assistive mechanisms leading to these improvements included reducing muscular activity in the ankle plantarflexors and assisting leg swing initiation.<h4>Conclusions</h4>These results emphasize the importance of optimizing exoskeleton actuation properties when assisting or augmenting human locomotion. Our optimal assistance onset timing and average power levels could be used for other exoskeletons to improve assistance and resulting benefits.
Project description:Earlier observations had suggested that cockroaches might show multiple patterns of leg coordination, or gaits, but these were not followed by detailed behavioral or kinematic measurements that would allow a definite conclusion. We measured the walking speeds of cockroaches exploring a large arena and found that the body movements tended to cluster at one of two preferred speeds, either very slow (<10 cm s(-1)) or fairly fast (?30 cm s(-1)). To highlight the neural control of walking leg movements, we experimentally reduced the mechanical coupling among the various legs by tethering the animals and allowing them to walk in place on a lightly oiled glass plate. Under these conditions, the rate of stepping was bimodal, clustering at fast and slow speeds. We next used high-speed videos to extract three-dimensional limb and joint kinematics for each segment of all six legs. The angular excursions and three-dimensional motions of the leg joints over the course of a stride were variable, but had different distributions in each gait. The change in gait occurs at a Froude number of ?0.4, a speed scale at which a wide variety of animals show a transition between walking and trotting. We conclude that cockroaches do have multiple gaits, with corresponding implications for the collection and interpretation of data on the neural control of locomotion.