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Bug-Sized Robots Keep Flying After Wing Damage

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An insect-size robot.

Researchers have developed resilient artificial muscles that can enable insect-scale aerial robots to effectively recover flight performance after suffering severe damage.

Credit: Kevin Chen et al.

Artificial muscles created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers can enable insect-sized aerial robots to repair themselves following damage.

Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) on the corners of the robots flap the wings in response to voltage.

Microscopic defects can cause sparks that burn the elastomers and lead to failure, so the researchers incorporated self-clearing—disconnecting the local electrode around a defect by applying high voltage to the DEA—into the robot repair process.

Tests showed a robot could sustain flight-level performance after jabbing one of its artificial muscles with 10 needles, and the actuator also remained operational with a large hole burnt into it.

The researchers are now developing new control algorithms so the robots can fly better and enabling the robots to carry a tiny circuit, with the longer-term goal of carrying its own power source.

From MIT News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2023 SmithBucklin, Washington, D.C., USA


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