UC Berkeley biologists have found robotic inspiration in the creepy ability of cockroaches to squeeze through even the tiniest crack. UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally, with footage and photos by Tom Libby, Kaushik Jayaram and Pauline Jennings, Courtesy of PolyPEDAL Lab, UC Berkeley). These are just a couple of the creepy findings from a UC Berkeley study of how American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) penetrate the tightest joints and seams in less than a second. What the researchers found has inspired a robot that can rapidly squeeze through cracks — a new capability for search-and-rescue in rubble resulting from tornados, earthquakes and explosions.
“What’s impressive about these cockroaches is that they can run as fast through a quarter-inch gap as a half-inch gap, by reorienting their legs completely out to the side,” said study leader Kaushik Jayaram, who recently obtained his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. “They’re about half an inch tall when they run freely, but can squish their bodies to one-tenth of an inch — the height of two stacked pennies.”