Robot “dogs” are all the rage lately, but you probably haven’t seen one that can climb up a wall. Researchers in Korea have made one that can, assuming the wall is made out of a metal that a magnet can stick to at least. The robot, MARVEL or magnetically adhesive robot for versatile and expeditious locomotion, might be pressing its luck on acronyms, but it is pretty agile as you can see in the video below. Tests showed the robot walking on walls and ceilings. It can cross gaps and obstacles and can even handle a curved storage tank with paint and rust.
The robot weighs 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds), can carry 2 – 3 kg of payload, and operates without a tether. Each foot contains both an electropermanent magnet and magnetorheological elastomers. If you haven’t seen them before, an electropermanent magnet, or EPM, is a magnet that can be turned on or off electronically. The elastomer is a polymer containing ferromagnetic particles that can alter the material’s properties in response to a magnetic field.
EPMs have two parts. One part is a simple permanent magnet. The other is a soft core easily magnetized by a surrounding coil. If you magnetize the soft core to oppose the permanent magnet, the fields cancel out, effectively turning off the magnet. If you magnetize it the other way, it reinforces the field.
This is better than an electromagnet in this application because turning the magnet on or off only requires a brief pulse. If you want your robot to hang out on the ceiling with Spider Man indefinitely, you don’t have to worry about draining your batteries while keeping an electromagnet engaged.
Overall, an interesting robot. Most wall-climbing robots we’ve seen are pretty lightweight. We don’t see nearly as many that can have the feeling of clinging to the ceiling.