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Tel Aviv University is a partner in an international consortium to develop a robot inspired by climbing plants

The robot, called GrowBot, will imitate movement resulting from growth and will know how to adapt to a changing and unpredictable environment - like a plant; It will be integrated into the smart cities of the future, and will be able to reach and operate in places that humans are unable to reach, such as the ruins of a collapsed building or the surface of Mars * The innovative project, funded at 7 million euros, brings together researchers from 9 laboratories across Europe: in Italy, Germany, Israel, in France and Spain, dealing in a wide variety of fields

A robot climbs trees. Illustration: shutterstock
A robot climbs trees. Illustration: shutterstock

A research group from the Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University, led by Dr. Yasmin Maroz, is one of 9 partners in a groundbreaking interdisciplinary and international project within the European Union's Horizon 2020 FET program, which supports the technologies of the future. The project deals with the development of a robot that is able to climb and advance in the field through growth, inspired by climbing plants. The innovative approach may be a revolutionary solution to one of the complex challenges of the field of robotics: movement in difficult conditions, when the terrain is unpredictable and non-continuous. The leader of the consortium is Prof. Barbara Mazoli from the Italian Institute of Technology.

"Robots with wheels or legs that exist today, many of which were developed inspired by animals, are able to move across surfaces, but have difficulty dealing with obstacles - such as stairs, rocks, cracks and pits," explains Dr. Maroz. "We offer a completely different approach: a robot based on the plant world. Such a robot, which draws its inspiration from the growth movement of climbing plants - such as the vine, ivy and cypress, will be able to reach almost anywhere: climb rocks and buildings, bridge spaces and streams, and so on."

The innovative project, with funding of 7 million euros, brings together researchers from 9 laboratories across Europe - in Italy, Germany, Israel, France and Spain, dealing in a wide variety of fields: botany, robotics, materials science, computer science, mathematics, engineering, energy and more . Dr. Maroz's laboratory contributes its part in the field of plant behavior. "Yes, it may sound surprising, but plants have behavioral characteristics," she says. "Plants react to their environment and make decisions all the time. But because, unlike animals, plants are stationary, they do things differently. Among other things, they solve the problem of movement by growing in the appropriate direction: sending out roots adapted to the location of the water, climbing and turning in different directions to reach the sunlight, and more. Climbing plants, from which we learn in this project, anchor themselves in bumps and objects on their way up, maintain a light weight and a thin structure, and can reach a length of 200 meters."

The growing robot developed by the consortium will be composed of innovative materials, will grow through self-replication, as in XNUMXD printing, and will be as light and thin as a climbing plant. Dr. Meroz's laboratory is responsible for developing mathematical models that will be integrated into the growing robot's brain, and will allow it to process the information it will collect from the environment through sensing systems, and then formulate correct decisions and an optimal growth strategy, according to the route and the terrain conditions.

"A growing robot will be able to perform tasks in many places that are impassable to humans, vehicles, and robots with legs and wheels; It will pass through narrow cracks, climb rocks and walls, and bridge across spaces," concludes Dr. Maroz. This way he will be able to penetrate the ruins of buildings, explore the surface of Mars and archaeological sites, and enter contaminated sites. It may also fit well into the smart city of the future: robotic buildings that grow by themselves could be used as bridges, and perhaps even become buildings that build themselves..."

To the project site

One response

  1. Good Morning

    I would like to add something about parasitic relationships in nature such as the climbing plants.

    I think it was a while ago, on the website of the Davidson Institute, I read an article about a parasitic plant that climbs an oak tree, but not only does it feed on the oak tree, it also feeds on the wasps that grow on the oak tree.

    In other words, the climbing plant knows that the shoots contain substances necessary for its development.

    In my understanding, an aphid is large on a tree, a product of parasitic activity such as laying eggs, introduction of chemicals by the parasite, etc.

    As described in the article, it was the first time that researchers realized that a climbing plant is itself a parasite, feeding on a wasp that itself is a parasite of the oak tree.

    The wasp (it's called a toad because it creates the acorns on the oak tree), lays an egg on the tree and in the process injects substances into the tree that cause the tree to grow hard acorns at the bottom of new leaves that serve as a home for the larva that hatches from the egg, these materials even cause the tree to transport food and water into the acorns And so the wasp's larva can develop undisturbed when all the materials it needs reach it from the tree and it itself is protected and develops in the hive until it becomes a wasp and emerges from the hive.

    But they discovered that there is a climbing plant not only that it feeds on the oak tree, because if it knows that in these spherical awns at the bottom of new leaves, there is a store of materials necessary for its development and from there to them in order to draw these materials, in addition, it does not waste energy climbing on leaves without awns and even Looking for big shards and not wasting energy climbing on small shards.

    Examining aphids, the researchers discovered that many of the aphids that the climbing plant cared for, were dead wasps (they died after extracting from the aphid the materials necessary for their development).

    And actually this is a type of parasite that researchers have never known, the hanzon parasite grew from the parasitic activity of a wasp.

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