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Jumping Microrobot 'Flea' Is Solar Powered

Flea-sized autonomous jumping microrobots may be just around the corner, thanks to research carried out at Berkeley by Sarah Bergbreiter. A micro-mechanical robot uses solar power to stretch a rubber band, jumping up to thirty times its height.


(Design of an Autonomous Jumping Microrobot [pdf] )

At the millimeter size scale, jumping can offer numerous advantages for efficient locomotion, including dealing with obstacles and potentially even latching onto other larger mobile hosts. Robot design is divided into four primary areas: energy storage, actuation, power, and control. Like its biological inspiration, the flea, a jumping microrobot requires an energy storage system to store energy and release it quickly to jump. Silicone micro rubber bands have been fabricated and assembled into the microrobot for this task. To stretch these micro rubber bands, electrostatic inchworm motors are chosen as actuators due to their high forces, long throw, and low input power requirements. Finally, solar cells and a microcontroller have been chosen to power and control the microrobot. A small-scale version of this system has been prototyped with the solar cells and a simple 4-bit microcontroller driving an inchworm motor. Separately, an inchworm motor has been demonstrated pulling and storing 4.9 nJ of energy in a micro rubber band. Finally, initial tests with a probe-loaded robot prototype have demonstrated a microrobot which can potentially jump 1.2 cm straight up.

Inevitably, this little guy makes me think of the scarab robot from Raymond Z. Gallun's 1936 classic The Scarab.

...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner. There it studied its surroundings, transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones and saw with its minute vision tubes.
(Read more about Gallun's insect robot)

If leaping robot news doesn't make you jumpy (it's late), be sure to check out the Toyota Robot Leg With Bird-Like Vertical Leap or even the decorative Jumping Spider Tank Robot Tachikoma.

From Design of an Autonomous Jumping Microrobot [pdf] via Robots.net.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/5/2007)

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