Robot uses supersonic air jets to climb on walls and ceilings (w/ video)

May 24, 2011 by Lisa Zyga weblog
robot bernoulli
In this clip from the video below, the robot crawls up a wall using a non-contact vacuum grip, due to Bernoulli's principle. Image credit: University of Canterbury.

( -- Instead of using sticky footpads to climb on walls and ceilings, a new robot takes advantage of fast-moving air that can generate an adhesion force on just about any kind of surface. The robot’s grippers, which don’t ever actually touch the surface as the robot climbs, operate on Bernoulli’s principle of fluid dynamics.

The robot was developed by researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, with the results published in a recent ICRA paper by Matthew Journee, et al.

According to Bernoulli’s principle, when a fluid (such as air) moves faster, its pressure decreases. To generate extremely fast-moving air, the researchers designed round grippers with tiny 25-μm gaps around the rim, out of which high-speed air can be forced. This design can compress the airflow so much that the air reaches supersonic speeds of Mach 3. The fast-moving air creates a low-pressure vortex inside the grippers that’s strong enough to pull the robot toward nearby surfaces, such as walls and ceilings, without actually touching them. The robot can roll on its two wheels, but the grippers are separated from the surface by a small gap.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The robot demonstrates adhesion with supersonic air jets on a variety of surfaces. Video credit: University of Canterbury.

Non-contact Bernoulli grippers have previously been used to pick up lightweight objects, especially those that are sterile or fragile. But in order to use the principle to enable a to climb, the researchers had to make the grippers five times stronger than the conventional version. They achieved this increase in strength by the carefully designed gaps, without the need for additional air pressure.

The non-contact could have applications in industrial inspections, and should be available in the coming months.

Explore further: Robots recognize humans in disaster environments

More information: IEEE Spectrum

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User comments : 8

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5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2011
Now that IS clever.
not rated yet May 24, 2011
I don't understand!
5 / 5 (3) May 24, 2011
There's a lot of prior work on this method; I worked with a similar robot in my Automation classes (it was built by some students in their senior year project and our class work was just to program it). But 25m gaps, Mach-3 air flow -- THAT is new, and very cool :)
not rated yet May 24, 2011
Yes, it's a clever trick but nothing ground-breaking. Basically, just another implementation of a suction cup where lower air pressure is created by using Bernoullis principle. The neat thing of course is that it avoids contact with the surface and blows outwards!
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2011
A Mach 3 flow through microscopic gaps... That must be a lot of pressure. Would it pierce your finger microscopically if you tried to block it?
not rated yet May 25, 2011
This is nothing new, semiconductor capital equipment makers have been using this for years on certain high moving parts.
not rated yet May 26, 2011
well I think the point is that it's a clever way to attach to something and still be mobile. It's the same sort of suction power as a vacuum cleaner, for example, but instead of sucking - it's blowing. This is important because it allows for a much more lightweight hose (carrying high pressure air). If the airflow were reversed, I think it would be a lot harder to achieve the proper suction, as the small hose would be a huge bottleneck for the air, and would likely just kink up and collapse (and not work).
not rated yet May 30, 2011
gotta love the "nothing new here" crowd. So smarty pants - where is the link to your proposal for this idea that you already did, hmmm?