There is an old saying, that ‘the hand is quicker than the eye;, but somewhat slower than the fly.” However, with a little practice you can swat a fly, although it sometimes doesn’t seem to faze the fly. École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has announced they have used nanotech to build a 1 gram possibly untethered, autonomous robotic insect that has enough processing power and sensors to recognize black and white patterns. Artificial muscles provide propulsion. But there’s the kicker: it can survive a strike with a fly swatter.
In the video you see below, the robots can move at 3 centimeters per second and there are two different versions. The first is a tethered system using ultra-thin wires. This is the version that can be folded, smacked, or even squashed by a shoe and continue moving.
The autonomous version weighs in at under 1 gram but has everything it needs including a tiny battery. The propulsion system uses dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs). These hair-thin muscles consist of an elastomer membrane and two soft electrodes.
Applying a voltage to the electrodes attracts them to each other, compressing the membrane. When you turn the voltage off, the membrane returns to its original shape much like a spring.
This kind of muscle usually requires a very high voltage, but the new insects use a design that doesn’t require high voltages, allowing the bug to carry its battery and other electronics on its back. Not bad for under a gram.