MIT Bug Insect Robot Artificial Muscle
MIT researchers are no strangers to insect-like micro robots, but giving them a boost to fly around like their real-life counterparts required a bit of tinkering. They ended up pioneered a fabrication technique that enables them to build soft actuators that operate with 75% lower voltage than current versions while carrying 80% more payload. Read more for a video, additional pictures and information.



What kind of robots will use these soft actuators? Ones that weigh less than one-fourth of a penny, yet boast four sets of wings that are each driven by a soft actuator. These artificial muscles are manufactured from layers of elastomer placed between two very thin electrodes and then rolled into a squishy cylinder. The electrodes then squeeze the elastomer when voltage is applied to the actuator, thus causing mechanical strain used to flap the wing.

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MIT Bug Insect Robot Artificial Muscle
MIT Bug Insect Robot Artificial Muscle
MIT Bug Insect Robot Artificial Muscle

This opens up a lot of opportunity in the future for us to transition to putting power electronics on the microrobot. People tend to think that soft robots are not as capable as rigid robots. We demonstrate that this robot, weighing less than a gram, flies for the longest time with the smallest error during a hovering flight. The take-home message is that soft robots can exceed the performance of rigid robots,” said Kevin Chen, senior author of the paper.