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Apr 26, 2022

Microrobot collectives display versatile movement patterns

Posted by in categories: particle physics, robotics/AI

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS), Cornell University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have developed collectives of microrobots which can move in any desired formation. The miniature particles are capable of reconfiguring their swarm behavior quickly and robustly. Floating on the surface of water, the versatile microrobotic disks can go round in circles, dance the boogie, bunch up into a clump, spread out like gas or form a straight line like beads on a string.

Each robot is slightly bigger than a hair’s width. They are 3D printed using a polymer and then coated with a thin top layer of cobalt. Thanks to the metal the microrobots become miniature magnets. Meanwhile, wire coils which create a magnetic field when electricity flows through them surround the setup. The magnetic field allows the particles to be precisely steered around a one-centimeter-wide pool of water. When they form a line, for instance, the researchers can move the robots in such a way that they “write” letters in the water. The research project of Gaurav Gardi and Prof. Metin Sitti from MPI-IS, Steven Ceron and Prof. Kirstin Petersen from Cornell University and Prof. Wendong Wang from Shanghai Jiao Tong University titled “Microrobot Collectives with Reconfigurable Morphologies, Behaviors, and Functions” was published in Nature Communications on April 26, 2022.

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