Two Insect-Like Micro-Robots Developed at Washington State University
Washington State University has developed two miniature robots that are the smallest, lightest, and fastest fully functional micro-robots ever known to be created. These tiny robots, a mini-bug and a water strider, have the potential to be used in various fields such as artificial pollination, search and rescue, environmental monitoring, micro-fabrication, and robotic-assisted surgery.
Actuators are the key to these tiny robots, and the researchers at WSU have developed the smallest and fastest actuators ever known for micro-robotics. These tiny actuators use a material called a shape memory alloy, which can change shapes when heated. They are able to move the robots without any moving parts or spinning components, unlike traditional motors. The tiny actuators require only a small amount of current, allowing the robots to move at high speeds. In preliminary tests, the actuator was able to lift more than 150 times its own weight.
With these innovations, the researchers are working to further study the movements of insects to improve the mobility of their micro-robots. They are also working on making their robots fully autonomous and untethered from a power supply.