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Researchers create vine-inspired robot

Researchers at Stanford University have created a robot that can grow 25,000 times its original size.

The robot is inspired by vines and can deflate to get into the smallest spaces or expand to be able to lift heavy objects.

Allison Okamura, professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the paper, said: "Essentially, we're trying to understand the fundamentals of this new approach to getting mobility or movement out of a mechanism. It's very, very different from the way that animals or people get around the world."

The robot can't ever get stuck or jammed somewhere as the tip can always progress with new material.

Elliot Hawkes, a visiting assistant professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara and lead author of the paper, said: "The body lengthens as the material extends from the end but the rest of the body doesn't move. The body can be stuck to the environment or jammed between rocks, but that doesn't stop the robot because the tip can continue to progress as new material is added to the end."

And the team are confident there are many applications for the robot including getting into hard to reach areas or delivering water to people trapped in tight spaces after a natural disaster.

Laura Blumenschein, a graduate student in the Okamura lab and co-author of the paper, shared: "The applications we're focusing on are those where the robot moves through a difficult environment, where the features are unpredictable and there are unknown spaces. If you can put a robot in these environments and it's unaffected by the obstacles while it's moving, you don't need to worry about it getting damaged or stuck as it explores."

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