Robots have always been a futuristic phenomenon, and their production is conventionally viewed as technological and scientific advancements. There are many popular applications where Robots have proven their efficiency and productivity, like in healthcare, manufacturing, military and more. However, traditionally the importance has been placed on what tasks robots can do for us; like drive our cars, clean our floors or even give us extra limbs. But what can power their abilities.
Remember when we were engrossed in devouring popcorns while enjoying the theatrical experience at the movies? Steve Ceron came up with a genius idea of using the same popcorns we eat for a much bigger purpose at Cornell’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab.
With his team of researchers, Ceron drafted a paper explaining how simple robots can be powered by Popcorn without electricity or hydraulics, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Yes, it’s true! In this ultra-modern era, it has become commonplace that we come across strange yet astounding developments in the sci-fi field and a popcorn robot is exactly that. The engineers from Cornell University demonstrated their hypothesis. Inside a silicon beam that was fastened with toasted wire, they put 36 kernels. An electrical current was dispersed through the metal chord, warming up the kernels which eventually started popping due to the heat, moving the silicon.
Popcorn has distinct features that include being readily available, cheap, and having the ability to expand in terms of the shape and size when heated. This invention could potentially be a stepping stone towards overall soft robots, but could also be utilized for a wider use. Ceron suggests that this invention’s long-term benefits are manifold; ranging from its ability to complete basic transportation, to serving as an inexpensive building block through which biodegradable structures can be made. He asserts that it can even function as a viable alternative to spray foam.
To claim popcorn robots will take over the world is not a coherent argument to make at this point. While they can hold objects and lift relatively lighter weights by expanding, there are certain limitations to achieving tasks beyond their ability. The engineers accomplished this by creating a claw where its “fingers” or insides were lined with raw kernels and a heating wire. As soon as the kernels burst open, they wield tension on the sleeve, holding them in a process that is similar to tense muscles. Given that the production is exceptionally cheap, deploying many of these robots will pave the way for a wide range of applications across various fields.
One can claim that the future looks bright, fluffy and delightful as researchers are now integrating food into Science and increasing the scope for similar innovations.