Shape-shifting Metallic Morphing Robots

“Imagine a small autonomous vehicle that could drive over land, stop, and flatten itself into a quadcopter. The rotors start spinning, and the vehicle flies away. Looking at it more closely, what do you think you would see? What mechanisms have caused it to morph from a land vehicle into a flying quadcopter? You might imagine gears and belts, perhaps a series of tiny servo motors that pulled all its pieces into place.”

This mechanism was designed by a team at Virginia Tech led by Michael Bartlett, assistant professor in mechanical engineering. These researchers use rubber, metal, and temperature to morph materials and fix them into place with no motors or pulleys. The team’s work has been published in Science Robotics

Co-authors of the paper include graduate students Dohgyu Hwang and Edward J. Barron III and postdoctoral researcher A. B. M. Tahidul Haque. In the photo, Edward Barron, Michael Bartlett, and Dohgyu Hwang hold a piece of material that has been warped. Photo by Alex Parrish for Virginia Tech.