Bending, twisting, crawling, walking, turning, and even jumping are all options for the little robot crab. In addition, the researchers created microrobots that look like inchworms, crickets, and beetles. Despite the fact that the study is still in its early phases, the researchers expect that their method will help them construct micro-sized robots capable of completing important jobs in limited spaces.
The findings of the study were published in the most recent issue of Science Robotics on Thursday (May 25). The same researchers had unveiled a microprocessor with wings in September of the previous year, which was the smallest human-made flying structure ever produced at the time (published on the cover of Nature).
Tiny robot crabs and other microscale robots
The construction of microscale robots is a fascinating topic of academic exploration. Imagine micro-robots as industrial agents, repairing or creating small structures or equipment, or as surgical assistants cleaning clogged arteries, preventing internal bleeding, or removing cancerous tumours – all with minimally intrusive methods.
This technology can walk at a rate of half its body length per second and enables a variety of regulated motion modalities according to Yonggang Huang, the theoretical work leader. Terrestrial robots are unable to complete this task on such a small scale due of its extreme difficulty.
The crab, which is smaller than a flea, does not move due to complex technology, hydraulics, or electricity. The robot was built using a shape-memory alloy composition. When heated, this substance “remembers” its prior state and returns to it. The researchers utilised a scanning laser beam to rapidly heat the robot in specific spots across its body in this scenario. After cooling, a thin layer of glass will be applied to the distorted area of the structure to restore it.
As it moves through its several phases, which are twisted to remembered shape and back, the robot may generate propulsion. Not only does the laser activate the robot from afar, but the direction in which the laser is scanned also determines the robot’s walking orientation. The robot will travel from right to left as a result of scanning from left to right.
Because of their small size, the rate of cooling is fairly fast, allowing them run faster.
The researchers used a method they discovered eight years ago to create such a little organism. The pop-up construction style used in children’s books inspired this idea.
When the walking crab inventions were flat and planar, the researchers started working on them. These precursors were then bonded to a slightly stretched rubber substrate. Controlled buckling occurs when the substrate is allowed to relax, causing the crab to “pop up” into three-dimensional shapes that have been carefully constructed.
By utilising these assembly techniques and material principles, the engineers can construct walking robots of virtually any size or three-dimensional shape.
Story Source: Original press release by Northwestern University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length by Scible News.
Han, M., Guo, X., Chen, X., Liang, C., Zhao, H., Zhang, Q., … Rogers, J. A. (2022). Submillimeter-scale multimaterial terrestrial robots. Science Robotics, 7(66), eabn0602. doi:10.1126/scirobotics.abn0602