In particular, plant roots are excellent natural diggers, points out Dr Barbara Mazzolai of the Center for Micro-BioRobotics at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), the coordinator of the project. The characteristics of roots - such as adaptive growth, energy-efficient movements, and their ability to penetrate soil at any angle - are interesting from an engineering perspective, she says.
In fact, owing to their sessile lifestyle, plants have evolved the ability to respond to a wide range of signals and efficiently adapt to changing environmental conditions. Plant materials are optimised to reduce energy consumption during motion and these capabilities offer a plethora of solutions for the world of robotics, using approaches that are muscle-free and thus not necessarily animal-like.
Research*eu results magazine asked Dr Mazzolai to tell us more about her work in the PLANTOID project.