Minghe Li, a roboticist at Tongji University in Shanghai, China, is designing the next generation of climbing robots. Li has developed an insect-bot that releases fluid, a mixture of honey and water, onto its feet for climbing.
Li later observed that stick insects that have grooves on their feet have enhanced sticking capabilities required for climbing. Li also found that replicating these grooves will help the robot to climb more effectively when more pressure is applied. According to Li's mathematical models, the hexagon shaped silicon foot pads can enhance adhesive properties by creating more fluid bridges between the foot and the surface.
The current groove-free prototype releases large droplets. Li estimated that a robot with grooves will secrete the sticky fluid slowly and spread it more evenly. One drawback of Li's insect-bot is that it is not equipped to handle inclines over 75°.
Li's insect-bot faces stiff competition from the Gecko robots, which use millions of hairs present on their footpads to stick to surfaces.