Micro Robot Disregards Gears, Embraces Explosions

Researchers at Cornell University have developed a tiny, proof of concept robot that moves its four limbs by rapidly igniting a combination of methane and oxygen inside flexible joints.

The device can’t do much more than blow each limb outward with a varying amount of force, but that’s enough to be able to steer and move the little unit. It has enough power to make some very impressive jumps. The ability to navigate even with such limited actuators is reminiscent of hopped-up bristebots.

Electronic control of combustions in the joints allows for up to 100 explosions per second, which is enough force to do useful work. The prototype is only 29 millimeters long and weighs only 1.6 grams, but it can jump up to 56 centimeters and move at almost 17 centimeters per second.

The prototype is tethered, so those numbers don’t include having to carry its own power or fuel supply, but as a proof of concept it’s pretty interesting. Reportedly a downside is that the process is rather noisy, which we suppose isn’t surprising.

Want to see it in action? Watch the video (embedded below) to get an idea of what it’s capable of. More details are available from the research paper, as well.

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Record-Setting Jumper Tosses Biomimicry Out The Window

How can a few grams of battery, geared motor, and some nifty materials get a jumping robot over 30 meters into the air? It wasn’t by copying a grasshopper, kangaroo, or an easily scared kitty. How was it done, then?

It’s been observed that of all the things that are possible in nature, out of all the wonderful mechanisms, fluid and aerodynamics, and chemistry, there’s one thing that is so far undiscovered in a living thing: continuous rotation. Yes, that’s right, the simple act of going roundy-round is unique to mechanical devices rather than biological organisms. And when it comes to jumping robots, biomimicry can only go so far.

With this distinct mechanical advantage in mind, [Elliot Hawkes] of the University of California Santa Barbara decided to look beyond biomimicry. As explained in the paper in Nature and demonstrated in the video below the break,  the jumping robot being considered uses rubber bands, carbon fiber bows, and commodity items such as a geared motor and LiPo batteries to essentially wind up the spring mechanism and then, like a trap being sprung, release the pent up energy all at once. The result? The little jumper can go almost 100 feet into the air. Be sure to check it out!

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