Research Highlights | Published:


Cockroaches inspire robot

Nature volume 530, page 257 (18 February 2016) | Download Citation


Researchers have discovered how cockroaches can speed through gaps just millimetres high — and have used their findings to build a compressible robot.

Image: Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA

Kaushik Jayaram and Robert Full at the University of California, Berkeley, observed American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) as they squeezed through a series of crevices that decreased in height. The insects could maintain speeds of up to 60 centimetres per second after entering these tight areas, and only slowed when the ceiling height reached 4 millimetres — about one-third of the insects' free-standing height. They achieved their speed by using their legs and feet to push against friction between their bodies, the ceiling and the ground.

The cockroaches' mode of locomotion inspired the development of a soft-bodied robot (pictured left) that can compress its height by half (pictured right), allowing it to move through a tight space.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2016)

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing