July 23, 2008 Scientists in the US have developed robots that are capable of climbing walls. BBC News has reported a team in SRI's Mobile Robotics and Transducers Programme have used the same principles behind electrostatic charges to develop machines about the size of a remote-controlled car that can scale a range of surfaces including brick, wood, steel and glass.

The robots have caterpillar tracks that have materials with electro-adhesive properties inside them. When a current is applied to the tracks, they are attracted to the wall in the same way that balloons stick to ceilings after being rubbed.

"What we've invented is a way to induce charges on the wall using a power supply located on the robot," research engineer Harsha Prahlad told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme. "The robot carries with it positive and negative charges, and when the walls sees these charges it automatically generates the opposite charge. The robot can then clamp onto those charges.” The technology is called compliant electroadhesion and allows the robots to crawl up a wall at a speed of about one body length per second, using a very small amount of power.

The robots are being touted for use by the military as reconnaissance, and also for service applications and as toys. The team is now working on a way to apply their technology to more insect-like robots by putting electro-adhesive pads on the robot feet.

Source: BBC News