Dynamics of a rolling robot

K. I. Ilin, H. K. Moffatt*, V. A. Vladimirov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Equations describing the rolling of a spherical ball on a horizontal surface are obtained, the motion being activated by an internal rotor driven by a battery mechanism. The rotor is modeled as a point mass mounted inside a spherical shell and caused to move in a prescribed circular orbit relative to the shell. The system is described in terms of four independent dimensionless parameters. The equations governing the angular momentum of the ball relative to the point of contact with the plane constitute a six-dimensional, nonholonomic, nonautonomous dynamical system with cubic nonlinearity. This system is decoupled from a subsidiary system that describes the trajectories of the center of the ball. Numerical integration of these equations for prescribed values of the parameters and initial conditions reveals a tendency toward chaotic behavior as the radius of the circular orbit of the point mass increases (other parameters being held constant). It is further shown that there is a range of values of the initial angular velocity of the shell for which chaotic trajectories are realized while contact between the shell and the plane is maintained. The predicted behavior has been observed in our experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12858-12863
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - Dec 5 2017


  • Chaotic rolling
  • Internal rotor
  • Nonholonomic system
  • Rolling robot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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