Researchers from the Autonomous LaboratoryMicro robots (AMSL) of the University of Southern California have created the world's lightest and smallest fully autonomous creeping microscopic robot. The device, called the RoBeetle, weighs just 88 milligrams - roughly the equivalent of three grains of rice. The robot uses a fundamentally new type of drive that functions as an artificial muscle.
Artificial Musculature of the RoBeetle Robotpowered by controlled catalytic combustion, a technology that will enable the development of a new generation of microrobots capable of operating on land, water and air.
Small robots require a highly efficient sourceautonomous energy. At the same time, the existing technologies of electric accumulators are still inferior in specific energy to liquid fuel. So the specific energy of ordinary methanol (20 MJ / kg) is about an order of magnitude higher than that of the most advanced batteries (1.8 MJ / kg).
The basis of RoBeetle's "muscles" are thinNitinol wire - a nickel-titanium shape memory alloy. Parts made of this material can be deformed, but when heated, they return to their original form. A platinum catalyst was sprayed onto the threads, on which methanol vapors are burned. Its warmth makes the nitinol "legs" of the robot contract to "relax" again when it cools.
With a dead weight of only 88 milligrams, the robotcan move objects 2.6 times heavier, and the installation of an additional "fuel tank" of 95 milligrams of methanol provides its autonomous operation for almost two hours. The inventors assure that if a similar system were to use a conventional rechargeable battery, it would last no more than a few seconds.