Army, MIT Explore Materials for Transforming Robots Made of Robots

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 U.S. Army,
Source: U.S. Army,

November 23, 2020 | Originally published by U.S. Army on November 18, 2020

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Scientists from the U.S. Army and MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms created a new way to link materials with unique mechanical properties, opening up the possibility of future military robots made of robots.

The method unifies the construction of varying types of mechanical metamaterials using a discrete lattice, or Lego-like, system, enabling the design of modular materials with properties tailored to their application. These building blocks, and their resulting materials, could lead to dynamic structures that can reconfigure on their own; for example, a swarm of robots could form a bridge to allow troops to cross a river. This capability would enhance military maneuverability and survivability of warfighters and equipment, researchers said.

“These findings, which researchers published in the Sciences Advances cover story, are an example of high-risk exploratory science and technology efforts from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory,” said Dr. Bryan Glaz, associate chief scientist in the laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

Motivated, in part, by swarms of tiny robots that link together to form any imaginable structure like in the animated movie Big Hero 6, these metamaterials may also enable future high-performance robotics and impact/blast absorbing structures,” Glaz said.