MM: Robotic Intestines Makes Rocket Fuel

Manufacturing an explosive material such as rocket fuel can be dangerous business. To lower the risk, engineers are taking a cue from nature with the design of their latest mixing method.

Manufacturing an explosive material such as rocket fuel can be dangerous business. To lower the risk, engineers are taking a cue from nature with the design of their latest mixing method.

Researchers from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) designed a robot to mimic the motion of the intestines that carefully combines the ingredients needed for solid rocket fuel using soft actuation technology. The prototype, revealed last week, is a series of connected tubes that compress back and forth. The outside of the mixer is made from artificial muscle and the inside is a cylindrical tube.

Researchers say the robot mixing station is safer than traditional methods since the mixing is a gentle process and the fuel never comes in contact with metal parts, which could cause dangerous sparks. 

If put into production, the robot mixer could be built as a loop, with ingredients being added at one end and rocket fuel extracted at the other in a continuous process, reducing manufacturing costs and increasing safety.

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