Bug-like Robots

When it comes to robots, bigger isn’t always better. Someday, a swarm of insect-sized robots might pollinate a field of crops or search for survivors amid the rubble of a collapsed buildingMIT researchers have demonstrated diminutive drones that can zip around with bug-like agility and resilience, which could eventually perform these tasks. The soft actuators that propel these microrobots are very durable, but they require much higher voltages than similarly-sized rigid actuators. The featherweight robots can’t carry the necessary power electronics that would allow them fly on their own. Now, these researchers have pioneered a fabrication technique that enables them to build soft actuators that operate with 75 percent lower voltage than current versions while carrying 80 percent more payload. These soft actuators are like artificial muscles that rapidly flap the robot’s wings.

This new fabrication technique produces artificial muscles with fewer defects, which dramatically extends the lifespan of the components and increases the robot’s performance and payload.

This opens up a lot of opportunity in the future for us to transition to putting power electronics on the microrobot. People tend to think that soft robots are not as capable as rigid robots. We demonstrate that this robot, weighing less than a gram, flies for the longest time with the smallest error during a hovering flight. The take-home message is that soft robots can exceed the performance of rigid robots,” says Kevin Chen, who is the D. Reid Weedon, Jr. ’41 assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the head of the Soft and Micro Robotics Laboratory in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), and the senior author of the paper.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

Nanorobots Deliver Drugs Directly To Diseased Tissue

Scientists at EPFL and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have developed tiny elastic robots that can change shape depending on their surroundings. Modeled after bacteria and fully biocompatible, these robots optimize their movements so as to get to hard-to-reach areas of the human body. They stand to revolutionize targeted drug delivery.

One day we may be able to ingest tiny robots that deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue, thanks to research being carried out at EPFL and ETH Zurich.


The robots are modeled after bacteria and fully biocompatible© 2019 EPFL/ ETHZ

The group of scientists – led by Selman Sakar at EPFL and Bradley Nelson at ETH Zurich – drew inspiration from bacteria to design smart, biocompatible microrobots that are highly flexible. Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape when needed, they can pass through narrow blood vessels and intricate systems without compromising on speed or maneuverability. They are made of hydrogel nanocomposites that contain magnetic nanoparticles allowing them to be controlled via an electromagnetic field.

In an article appearing in Science Advances, the scientists describe the method they have developed for “programming the robot’s shape so that it can easily travel through fluids that are dense, viscous or moving at rapid speeds. When we think of robots, we generally think of bulky machines equipped with complex systems of electronics, sensors, batteries and actuators. But on a microscopic scale, robots are entirely different.

Fabricating miniaturized robots presents a host of challenges, which the scientists addressed using an origami-based folding method. Their novel locomotion strategy employs embodied intelligence, which is an alternative to the classical computation paradigm that is performed by embedded electronic systems.Our robots have a special composition and structure that allow them to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid they are moving through. For instance, if they encounter a change in viscosity or osmotic concentration, they modify their shape to maintain their speed and maneuverability without losing control of the direction of motion,” says Sakar.

These deformations can be “programmed” in advance so as to maximize performance without the use of cumbersome sensors or actuators. The robots can be either controlled using an electromagnetic field or left to navigate on their own through cavities by utilizing fluid flow. Either way, they will automatically morph into the most efficient shape.

Source: https://actu.epfl.ch/