Developments to watch: Mobile microrobots

Future robots much smaller than Lincoln’s smile on a penny may locate cancer cells, enter, and deliver anti-cancer agents, or self-assemble into a structure, providing science-fiction-like advances in medicine, manufacturing, and other industries. At present, power and control remain two significant challenges, according to Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, speaking at Sensors Expo on June 25.

07/02/2014


Untethered mobile microscale robotic system research began in the 1980s and continues with a growing number of researchers involved, according to Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, speaking at Sensors Expo on June 2Untethered mobile microscale robotic system research began in the 1980s and continues with a growing number of researchers involved, according to Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, speaking at Sensors Expo on June 25. Progress is slow as power and control remain significant hurdles, but the prospect of micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) microrobots has significant potential in manufacturing, biomedicine, and surveillance. And navigation is improving, he suggested.

Paprotny, discussing current trends and future directions in microrobots, also reviewed the progress of his team, showing images and an amusing video of moving microrobots set to the "Blue Danube" waltz, including a "docking" procedure where two link.

Disruptive technology

Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke at Sensors Expo on June 25, explaining how “MicroStressBots” use a powered substrate for motion. Slide shows the rectangular shape (160 x 60 microns) with a leg with a circleMicrorobotics "will be disruptive technology," Paprotny said; applications include surveillance, imaging and sensing, assembly, biomedicine, and smart structures, as robots collaborate.

Microrobots, by definition, operate within a 1 mm cube. Autonomous flight is proven in the insect world within that size range, he noted, showing an image of a flying butterfly parasite about 130 microns in size that appeared as a speck on the head of a butterfly.

Motive force from substrate

Paprotny's team's "MicroStressBots" use a powered substrate for motion; they're rectangular (160 x 60 microns) with a leg with a circle on the end adding 100 microns to one corner for 260 microns total. Movements are similar to those of an inchworm-scratch-drive propulsion, he called it. Dragging the arm can create a turn.

Challenges include:

  1. Fabrication integration of a complete system at a micro scale.
  2. Power; at present, off-board electrostatic power delivery is used.
  3. Control; off-board control is used; it's a massively under-actuated system. At present, the robots only turn one way, although they can be made to turn with a tighter radius.

Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke at Sensors Expo on June 25, about microrobots, including these “Microflyers.” Courtesy: Control Engineering, Mark T. HoskeIn a separate effort, a small flying robot also is under development. The microflyers, which appear like a small fan blade, 1.5 micron thick with a 300-micron wingspan, actually have a small jumping action traveling 126 microns. They use the same motive principle as a spinner solar radiometer. Paprotny acknowledged that eight students also working on this research.

Differing motive approaches are being used by other researchers, including magnetic forces (most common), biological (modified bacteria or sperm), or catalytic (with rolled-up tubules).

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com. 

ONLINE extra

www1.ece.uic.edu/~paprotny/

http://www1.ece.uic.edu/~paprotny/MSL_index.html

www.controleng.com/robotics 

See other robotic posts below. 



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Sensor-to-cloud interoperability; PID and digital control efficiency; Alarm management system design; Automotive industry advances
Make Big Data and Industrial Internet of Things work for you, 2017 Engineers' Choice Finalists, Avoid control design pitfalls, Managing IIoT processes
Engineering Leaders Under 40; System integration improving packaging operation; Process sensing; PID velocity; Cybersecurity and functional safety
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
click me