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Next (Little) Thing: Insect-like Mini-robots

Jan. 18, 2024.
1 min. read 6 Interactions

Innovative uses include search and rescue, insect control, and robot-assisted surgery

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Amara Angelica

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Amara Angelica is Senior Editor, Mindplex

The WaterStrider weighs 55 milligrams and can move at 6 millimeters per second (photo credit: Bob Hubner, WSU Photo Services)

Engineers at Washington State University have developed two miniature bug-like robots that could be used in the future for work in areas such as artificial pollination, search and rescue, insect control, environmental monitoring, micro-fabrication and robotic-assisted surgery. (Also great for creepy-crawler pranks?)

The two mini-bugs weigh in at just 8 milligrams and 55 milligrams, and can move at about six millimeters a second—way slower than ants, who can run at a meter/sec.

How they work

The trick: tiny actuators make the robots move, weighing less than a milligram—the smallest known to have been developed for micro-robotics, said Néstor O. Pérez-Arancibia, Flaherty Associate Professor in Engineering at WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who led the project. 

The actuator uses a material called a “shape memory alloy” (SMA) that is 1/1000th of an inch in diameter and can change shapes and move when heated—no moving parts or spinning components. The SMA technology also requires only a very small amount of electricity or heat to make them move.

Water strider next

The researchers would next like to copy another insect and develop a water strider-type robot that can move across the top of the water surface as well as just under it.

They are also working to use tiny batteries or catalytic combustion to make their robots fully autonomous and untethered from a power supply.

Citation: C. K. Trygstad, X. -T. Nguyen and N. O. Pérez-Arancibia, “A New 1-mg Fast Unimorph SMA-Based Actuator for Microrobotics,” 2023 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Detroit, MI, USA, 2023, pp. 2693-2700, doi: 10.1109/IROS55552.2023.10342518.

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2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Next (Little) Thing: Insect-like Mini-robots

  1. Have a good day!

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  2. And one day we will buy a roach killer spray I mean robot insect killer. 😂

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