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Ice Robots

Frozen ice world are one of the attractive targets in space exploration. For example, we can see the Europa Jupiter’s moon which is made up of salty rock and wide ice sheet and an iron-nickel core. The question arise here is how can we examine this kind of moon? The solution may lie in the ice robots.
To explore planets like mars space agencies like NASA is getting better at building robots but they have limitations in breakdown. And while exploring surface of mars if any breakdown occurs in robots there is no practical way to solve that.
In case of frozen world, what if the robots were made up of ice?  Do they repair themselves? Are they able to manufacture and assemble there on the Martian surface? Recently a paper was presented by Devin Carroll and Mark Yim at IEEE 2020 namely Robots made from ice, an analysis to manufacture these kind of techniques.

The structure of this technique is such that the robot is not entirely made up of ice and its main focus is on the design that self-repair and clone themselves after its deployment. In the paper that was presented at IEEE the author wrote that the ice allows us increased flexibility in design which enables the robot to be redesigned and rebuild after deployment.

The authors of the paper stated that this is the initial structure approach to observe the manufacturing process. A mobile robot was made as a proof of concept and demo. The robot was made up on two-wheel rover named Icebot based on the concept of Antarctic rovers that has structure of ice.

To take a survey of whole idea the design was based on two beliefs:

  • At McMurdo station in Antarctica the robot will work on zero temperatures and all of their readings are based on yearly average temperatures.
  • Ice blocks are easily available.

The paper is based on three design principles:

  • The components are need to be designed in such a way that manages heat.
  • All the electronic components must be away from melting.
  • The final volume of the component is based on the shape from a raw slab of ice.

To manage the robot’s energy and longevity it uses to manufacture, researchers use open flame to melt the holes in the ice.
The entire manufacturing divides in two parts: firstly, the initial exploration vehicle and other will be a chip that have the repair and manufacturing capabilities. The structure works as suppose if there is a minor crack in any ice component then the mother ship could apply ice bandage.

The above link has video of how the ice bots gets experimented in their different ways of integrating actuators.

  • Carving is done on the ice bots with the help of chisel.
  • Hole is melted with open flame.
  • Create hole with heated metal rod.
  • Cutting is done with help of a hole saw.

For any technology to be implemented there is a lot of work needs to be done.