The stereotypical robot is one made of metal or plastic with pistons and actuators to drive movement, and while some robots built today can be described like that, some are quite different. Soft body robots are made of softer materials that flex and bend easily, such as silicone. Researchers at Harvard University have recently created a soft body robot with the ability to jump using combustion.
Jumping, soft body robots have been made before using pneumatics, but the system was slow, so the researchers decided to change tactics to something with more bang. The silicone body of the robot was created by a 3D printer and has channels within its three legs. These channels can have carefully controlled amounts of methane and oxygen pumped into them. The legs also have high-voltage wires embedded in them to provide the spark that ignites the gases, thereby providing the force to launch the robot into the air.
Potentially this jumping method could be used to get a soft body robot past an obstacle, but the researchers are looking at this combustion technique for other purposes. Specifically the researchers want to try controlling the energy of the explosions to allow the robot to walk or run.
Source: Harvard University