Flying Microrobots Are Upgraded With New Artificial Muscles

Over the years, researchers at MIT have been developing aerial microrobots—tiny, insect-sized robots that can fly around and perform tasks—and have just revealed a big upgrade. The latest version utilizes a new fabrication technique that allows each bot to operate on 75% lower voltage and carry an 80% heavier payload. This technique creates soft actuators that act as artificial muscles around each bot’s four sets of wings. These groundbreaking attributes decrease defects while increasing performance and lifespan. Researchers were able to do this by layering ultra-thin, vacuum-packed elastomer and electrodes which, for the first time, created a 20-layer actuator with each layer measuring only 10 micrometers in thickness. Altogether, each complete robot weighs less than one-fourth of a penny. Learn more about how the engineers accomplished such a large feat using hair-thin nanotubes at MIT News.

Image courtesy of MIT