Artificial heliotropism and nyctinasty based on optomechanical feedback and no electronics
Cezan, S. D.
Baytekin, H. T.
Grzybowski, B. A.
2169-5172 (print)2169-5180 (online)
Mary Ann Liebert
93 - 98
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Although plants are typically not considered an inspiration for designing motile robots, they do perform a variety of intricate motion patterns, including diurnal cycles of sun tracking (heliotropism) and leaf opening (nyctinasty). In real plants, these motions are controlled by complex, feedback-based biological mechanisms that, to date, have been mimicked only in computer-controlled artificial systems. This work demonstrates both heliotropism and nyctinasty in a system in which few simple, but strategically positioned thermo-responsive springs and lenses form a feedback loop controlling these motions and substantiating a behavioral analogy to "plants." In particular, this feedback allows the "artificial plant" to reach and stabilize at a metastable position in which the solar flux on the "plants" and the solar power "leaves" are maximized. Unlike many soft robotic systems, our "plants" are completely autonomous, in that, they do not require any external controls or power sources. Bioinspired designs such as this could be of interest for soft robotic systems in which materials alone - rather than power-consuming electronic circuitry - control the motions.