Now, we at DFC have a long history of adoring tiny, highly specified robots. But this new one takes the cake!
A team of Cornell University researchers has done a series of experiments on the feasibility of popcorn-driven robots. Yes: robots made of delicious, delicious popcorn. By enclosing unpopped kernels in various configurations, and popping them using heated Nichrome wires, microwaves, and hot air, the team harnessed the resulting kinetic energy in three proofs of concept for soft, compliant, and rigid robots.
Have a look at the devices in action here! Warning: it will make you hungry.
The Cornell Chronicle goes into greater detail about the truly innovative aspects of the study:
“The study is the first to consider powering robots with popcorn, which is inexpensive, readily available, biodegradable and of course, edible. Since kernels can expand rapidly, exerting force and motion when heated, they could potentially power miniature jumping robots. Edible devices could be ingested for medical procedures. The mix of hard, unpopped granules and lighter popped corn could replace fluids in soft robots without the need for air pumps or compressors.”
Popcorn power can only be used once, as kernels can’t “un-pop,” but they can be dissolved out of the permanent structures and replaced with fresh kernels. It seems all the assets that make popcorn an excellent snack — lightness, solubility, high expansion volume — are poised to make it an equally excellent robot component. And I am poised to fix a bowl myself, and harness its kinetic energy by putting it in my mouth!