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Mechanical Innovations of a Climbing Cactus: Functional Insights for a New Generation of Growing Robots

Abstract : Climbing plants are being increasingly viewed as models for bioinspired growing robots capable of spanning voids and attaching to diverse substrates. We explore the functional traits of the climbing cactus Selenicereus setaceus (Cactaceae) from the Atlantic forest of Brazil and discuss the potential of these traits for robotics applications. The plant is capable of growing through highly unstructured habitats and attaching to variable substrates including soil, leaf litter, tree surfaces, rocks, and fine branches of tree canopies in wind-blown conditions. Stems develop highly variable cross-sectional geometries at different stages of growth. They include cylindrical basal stems, triangular climbing stems and apical star-shaped stems searching for supports. Searcher stems develop relatively rigid properties for a given cross-sectional area and are capable of spanning voids of up to 1 m. Optimization of rigidity in searcher stems provide some potential design ideas for additive engineering technologies where climbing robotic artifacts must limit materials and mass for curbing bending moments and buckling while climbing and searching. A two-step attachment mechanism involves deployment of recurved, multi-angled spines that grapple on to wide ranging surfaces holding the stem in place for more solid attachment via root growth from the stem. The cactus is an instructive example of how light mass searchers with a winged profile and two step attachment strategies can facilitate traversing voids and making reliable attachment to a wide range of supports and surfaces
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 7, 2020 - 12:00:00 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - 8:18:04 AM


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Patricia Soffiatti, Nick P Rowe. Mechanical Innovations of a Climbing Cactus: Functional Insights for a New Generation of Growing Robots. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Frontiers Media S.A., 2020, 7, ⟨10.3389/frobt.2020.00064⟩. ⟨hal-02892041⟩



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