Engineers from Scotland’s Glasgow University have created stretchy worm-like robots that can access hard-to-reach spaces unlike their rigid counterparts.

Capable of stretching up to nine times their length, the robot worms are 4.5 cm long strain sensors enveloped in Ecoflex skin and graphite paste.

The worm-like robots move via tiny permanent magnets attached at each end, enabling them to move along metal surfaces, while the strain sensors allow the robots to sense their movements — a form of proprioception — by gauging the graphite paste’s electrical resistance, which is altered when the devices expand their bodies. In the event that the resistance exceeds a predetermined value, the body contracts, thereby moving the robot worm forward.

The engineering team believes that the robots could be used for industrial, mining, construction, and search and rescue applications as well as for the development of life-like prosthetics.

Watch the accompanying video that appears courtesy of Glasgow University to see the worm-like robots in action.

The study, "Bioinspired Inchworm and Earthworm like Soft Robots with Intrinsic Strain Sensing," is published in the journal Advanced Intelligent Systems.

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