An earthworm-like modular soft robot for locomotion in multi-terrain environments

Riddhi Das*, Saravana Prashanth Murali Babu*, Francesco Visentin, Stefano Palagi, Barbara Mazzolai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Robotic locomotion in subterranean environments is still unsolved, and it requires innovative designs and strategies to overcome the challenges of burrowing and moving in unstructured conditions with high pressure and friction at depths of a few centimeters. Inspired by antagonistic muscle contractions and constant volume coelomic chambers observed in earthworms, we designed and developed a modular soft robot based on a peristaltic soft actuator (PSA). The PSA demonstrates two active configurations from a neutral state by switching the input source between positive and negative pressure. PSA generates a longitudinal force for axial penetration and a radial force for anchorage, through bidirectional deformation of the central bellows-like structure, which demonstrates its versatility and ease of control. The performance of PSA depends on the amount and type of fluid confined in an elastomer chamber, generating different forces and displacements. The assembled robot with five PSA modules enabled to perform peristaltic locomotion in different media. The role of friction was also investigated during experimental locomotion tests by attaching passive scales like earthworm setae to the ventral side of the robot. This study proposes a new method for developing a peristaltic earthworm-like soft robot and provides a better understanding of locomotion in different environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1571
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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