There is a couple of stumbling blocks when developing tiny robots. Propulsion and power source. How do we get an insect-size robot to move with clunky servos and motors, and also with battery taking the space and weighing it down? Well, it looks like researchers of Autonomous Microrobotic Systems Laboratory (AMSL) at University of Southern California may have found the answer.
AMSL is, of course, the same department that created the tiny 4-winged robotic insect with innovative actuators. The researchers have developed an 88-milligram insect-size, four-legged robot called RoBeetle that uses micro-actuation technology based on controllable chemically-powered artificial muscles.
RoBeetle does not have motor of any kind and yet it is able to crawl without the need for batteries. The substance that enables this magic is methanol contained inside its fuel tank which is also the microrobot’s body.
Using catalytic combustion of methanol to serve as an artificial muscle and a clever mm-scale mechanical control mechanism made of carbon fiber polyamide film. We shall no dive into the science of how the chemical-mechanical reaction enables it to power itself forth.
If you are interested, there is a video down below that explains it all. Or if the scholarly side of you demand, there’s a paper published on Science Robotics that dig deeper into the workings of this crazy small robot.
Like an actual exoskeleton insect, it is pretty strong too, capable of carrying 2.6 times of its own body weight. With 2.6x payload, it will allow RoBeetle to carry different electronics for different tasks. Anyways, we shan’t get in your way of learning how it works and so, here’s the aforementioned video: