Robert Full

Robert
Full

American Biologist, Professor of Biology at UC Berkeley, CA, Founder of CiBER, the Center for interdisciplinary, Bio-inspiration in Education and Research and the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory which studies the Performance, Energetics and Dynamics of Animal Locomotion (PEDAL) in many footed creatures

Author Quotes

Robustness is one feature that sets organisms apart from engineered devices. Robustness has been defined, in part, as persistence - the ability to withstand perturbations in structure without change in function - and often includes concepts such as modularity, redundancy, self-repair, learning and adaptation. The use of exoskeletons in polypedal locomotion by arthropods represents an excellent system to examine robustness. Insects can still locomote with the loss of legs or damage to sensors. Cockroaches maintain their speed on hard surfaces and over rough terrain even after the loss of their feet. Cockroaches transition up a wall by colliding with it head-on at over one meter or 50 body lengths per second. These small animals rely on the robustness of their exoskeleton to simplify control. The rapid design of robust exoskeletons for small robots is now possible using a process called Smart Composite Microstructures. This approach enables the construction of small, strong, lightweight structures whose ability to move comes from bending of compliant polymer hinges that connect rigid links made from carbon fiber and other lightweight composites. These structures are made as single flat pieces that are folded to form more complicated shapes and linkages. This process has resulted in legged robots such as the 10 cm long, 16 g robot, DASH (Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod Robot) that can sustain 8-story falls without damage and run away after a 10 meter per second impact. Moreover, rapid prototyping offers the possibility of designing legged robots as physical models to test biological hypotheses. A principled understanding of robustness remains a grand challenge for biology and a potential rich source of biological inspiration for engineering.

Full observed that arthropods are masterful movers. They successfully scamper over difficult terrain, and some move incredibly fast. After analyzing arthropod movements, Full reached some interesting conclusions. He found that the arthropod body plan is well designed for efficient and stable locomotion. Jointed legs serve as springs, struts and shock absorbers for the animal. As they walk or run, many arthropods keep three legs on the ground at once, making them particularly stable. (A three-legged stool never wobbles.) He also discovered that locomotion takes very little brainpower, allowing the creatures' simple nervous systems to focus on more complex tasks.

I think it is really exciting to see every step toward the design of an adhesive that can be as effective as a gecko. It shows the importance of biological inspiration.

I'm interested in [arthropods'] movements so you can discover the secrets of how their muscles and their skeletons work to allow them to move so wonderfully in the environment.

My primary interests reside in the area of comparative biomechanics and physiology. My research program quantifies whole animal performance in general and locomotion in particular as it relates to an animal's structure, physiology, and behavior. We use biomechanical, computer simulation (dynamic musculo-skeletal modeling), physical modeling (robot and artificial muscle construction), isolated muscle, biochemical, whole-animal exercise physiology and field-tracking techniques to seek general design principles for species which have evolved different solutions to the problems of locomotion and activity in general. The study of arthropod, amphibian and reptilian locomotion continues to offer an excellent opportunity for comparison. Animals such as crabs, cockroaches, ants, beetles, scorpions, centipedes, geckos and salamanders show tremendous variation in body shape, gas transport system, leg number, musculoskeletal arrangement and mode of movement. Diversity enables discovery. We use these "novel" biological designs as natural experiments to probe for basic themes concerning the relationship between morphology, body size, energetics, dynamics, control, stability, maneuverability, maximum speed and endurance. An understanding of the diverse biological solutions to the problems of locomotion contributes to the development of a general theory of energetics, neuro-mechanics and behavior. We collaborate closely with engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists by providing biological principles to inspire the design of multi-legged robots, artificial limbs and muscles, novel control algorithms, and self-cleaning, dry adhesives.

Act with a determination not to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fears of the future.

The march of Providence is so slow and our desires to impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our mean of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing ways, and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert
Last Name
Full
Bio

American Biologist, Professor of Biology at UC Berkeley, CA, Founder of CiBER, the Center for interdisciplinary, Bio-inspiration in Education and Research and the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory which studies the Performance, Energetics and Dynamics of Animal Locomotion (PEDAL) in many footed creatures