Robots are going to get faster and smarter as technology advances. Building robots at the micron scale has always been tricky. Designing actuators for them is a challenge since conventional actuators don’t work at such a scale. A team of researcher has now developed an actuator that operates electronically and can be layered directly onto the circuit that controls it. Such approach allows for building robots that can’t be seen by the human eye.
As the researchers explain:
we overcome this barrier by developing a new class of voltage-controllable electrochemical actuators that operate at low voltages (200 microvolts), low power (10 nanowatts) and are completely compatible with silicon processing. To demonstrate their potential, we develop lithographic fabrication-and-release protocols to prototype sub-hundred-micrometre walking robots. Every step in this process is performed in parallel, allowing us to produce over one million robots per four-inch wafer.