Miniature robots that can move and function like insects are now more than just the dreams of science fiction.

In work that will be presented during the AVS 63rd International Symposium and Exhibition being held November 6-11, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee, Sarah Bergbreiter and her colleagues in the Maryland Microrobotics Laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park, have not only build microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices the size of insects, but have also created them to move just like real insects.

One of the team’s bioinspirations is ants. “Ants can move at speeds over 40 body lengths per second on all kinds of surfaces, so we have looked to them and other insects as the models for how we want our microrobots to behave,” Bergbreiter said.

Using a micro-molding process developed in their lab, the Maryland researchers have fabricated these insect MEMS with amazing locomotive abilities that are driven magnetically. For example, there is a 4-millimeter robotic “flea” that can jump 35 centimeters in height as well as a 25-milligram, six-legged microrobot that can travel over flat or rough terrain at up to 5.9 body lengths per second.

Bergbreiter envisions a future where insect-like microrobots are being used to search for survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings, inspect bridges for signs of breakdown and provide low-cost sensor deployment for a variety of monitoring applications.

Story source: Science daily