If we’re to have robots that work inside our bodies to find and cure diseases, they must be very small. To help make the dreams of futurists a reality, researchers at Georgia Tech have now created a robot that weighs only five milligrams and is no taller than the side of a US penny.
The device is a variation of a “bristle-bot” that features a vibrating motor and bristles for legs. The bristles are angled so that they stay straight and resist motion in one direction, while bending when pushed in the other. As the motor vibrates back and forth, the robot ends up moving in only one direction. “As the micro-bristle-bots move up and down, the vertical motion is translated into a directional movement by optimizing the design of the legs, which look like bristles,” said Azadeh Ansari, one of the leads on the research. “The legs of the micro-robot are designed with specific angles that allow them to bend and move in one direction in resonant response to the vibration.”
Georgia Tech’s “micro-bristle-bot” has a piezoelectric actuator on top of a polymer core that is 3D printed using a technique called two-photon polymerization lithography. The actuator can be powered externally and, if desired, the surface on which the robot sits can be vibrated to make the robot walk.
By changing the length, shape, and size of the robot’s legs, it can be made to walk at different rates with the same vibrational frequency. This can allow multiple robots to be controlled together, with each having its own independent path. Each robot can also have a different number of legs, and since these legs can be made to vibrate and generate electricity, they can also potentially power on-board sensors and other devices.
The possibilities are enticing and we hope this technology will soon translate into the medical world.
Here’s a Georgia Tech video abut the new robot:
Study in Journal Micromechanics and Microengineering: A 5mg micro-bristle-bot fabricated by two-photon lithography
Via: Georgia Tech