Robotic insect moving at 3 cm per second can also be crushed

A small robot very similar to a ground insect that moves relatively fast and can literally be crushed without damage was developed by a group of researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The researchers from the School of Engineering have in fact developed what is described in the press release as a “soft robotic insect” that can run up to 3 cm per second thanks to small artificial muscles.

Nicknamed DEAnsect, this microrobot has been developed in two versions: one connected with ultra-thin wires that is so strong that it can literally be crushed with a more classic fly chaser. Another is a completely self-contained, cable and wire-free model that weighs less than 1 g and moves thanks to a battery on its back. It is defined as an “intelligent insect” because it uses a microcontroller that acts as “brain” and some photodiodes that act as “eyes”. For now it can distinguish white from black and this already allows it to follow a line drawn on a surface.

The muscles are represented by small actuators made of dielectric elastomer thanks to which the artificial insect is pushed forward with small vibrations. Precisely this type of artificial muscle allows the same robot to be so light and fast and to be able to move on various types of terrain, even on undulating and moderately uneven.

Now researchers are working on building a new model that can communicate with other similar models thanks to new sensors and emitters, as Herbert Shea, director of the Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS), the EPFL section involved in the project, says.


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