Insect-scale jumping robots enabled by a dynamic buckling cascade

Yuzhe Wang, Qiong Wang, Mingchao Liu, Yimeng Qin, Liuyang Cheng, Ophelia Bolmin, Marianne Alleyne, Aimy Wissa, Ray H. Baughman, Dominic Vella, Sameh Tawfick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Millions of years of evolution have allowed animals to develop unusual locomotion capabilities. A striking example is the legless-jumping of click beetles and trap-jaw ants, which jump more than 10 times their body length. Their delicate musculoskeletal system amplifies their muscles’ power. It is challenging to engineer insect-scale jumpers that use onboard actuators for both elastic energy storage and power amplification. Typical jumpers require a combination of at least two actuator mechanisms for elastic energy storage and jump triggering, leading to complex designs having many parts. Here, we report the new concept of dynamic buckling cascading, in which a single unidirectional actuation stroke drives an elastic beam through a sequence of energy-storing buckling modes automatically followed by spontaneous impulsive snapping at a critical triggering threshold. Integrating this cascade in a robot enables jumping with unidirectional muscles and power amplification (JUMPA). These JUMPA systems use a single lightweight mechanism for energy storage and release with a mass of 1.6 g and 2 cm length and jump up to 0.9 m, 40 times their body length. They jump repeatedly by reengaging the latch and using coiled artificial muscles to restore elastic energy. The robots reach their performance limits guided by theoretical analysis of snap-through and momentum exchange during ground collision. These jumpers reach the energy densities typical of the best macroscale jumping robots, while also matching the rapid escape times of jumping insects, thus demonstrating the path toward future applications including proximity sensing, inspection, and search and rescue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2210651120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 31 2023


  • artificial muscles
  • insect-scale robot
  • jumping insect
  • jumping robot
  • snap-through

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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