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Rescue robot module with sliding membrane locomotion

Rezia Molfino (University of Genova, Genova, Italy)
Matteo Zoppi (University of Genova, Genova, Italy)
Luca Rimassa (University of Genova, Genova, Italy)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 2 May 2008



The purpose of this paper is to present a cost‐effective design for a new rescue robot locomotion module using the principle of a continuous sliding membrane to achieve propulsion ratio (PR) near 1. Such high PR cannot be reached by other locomotion mechanisms that have been proposed.


The paper first introduces the PR as a reference parameter to assess locomotion effectiveness of snake‐ and worm‐like robots. The state‐of‐the‐art is reviewed. A direction to step beyond getting PR near 1 is indicated. The way is by realizing a continuous sliding membrane. Two solutions in this direction which have been recently proposed are recalled. It is shown that none of them can be practically implemented to realize functioning systems with today's available technology. A new design with membrane actuation has been identified and it is described in detail. A prototype has been realized and earliest results and evidence of functioning described.


Critical discussion of the concept of locomotion based on a sliding membrane was conducted. A new design for a robot locomotion module applying this concept was presented. Earliest evidence of functioning and effectiveness of the new system proposed was given.

Research limitations/implications

A new locomotion principle is shown. The state‐of‐the‐art background is discussed. A design to realize the new system in a cost‐effective way is described. The research implications lie in the future development of new mobile robots with higher locomotion capability than today's available systems. Several future research and development directions are shown.

Practical implications

A new generation of more locomotion‐effective snake‐ and worm‐robots, especially for rescue application in rubble, is foreseen. The design proposed takes cost‐effectiveness and practical realizability into account.


The continuous sliding membrane concept had been already proposed but no reasonable realization and actuation solutions had been singled out. The design of the new locomotion system is totally new and contains several breakthrough ideas. A prototype is available proving worthy in concept and functioning. It is cost‐effective and this will allow shorter application to real robots.



Molfino, R., Zoppi, M. and Rimassa, L. (2008), "Rescue robot module with sliding membrane locomotion", Industrial Robot, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 211-216.



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