DEAnsect – an elastic insect robot that can withstand a swatter

Research in the field of robotics is very important and useful, especially the development of miniature robots that together are able to perform fairly complex tasks, working in places of natural disasters, technological disasters, etc. To do this, such robots must be very reliable, and researchers from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic University of Lausanne (Swiss Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, EPFL) seem to have managed to realize all this to the fullest. The elastic insect robot they created is able to recover from impacts and continue to fulfill the task assigned to it.

The weight of the new insect robot does not exceed one gram, it is moved using polymer artificial muscles (dielectric elastomer actuators, DEA), which formed the basis of its name – DEAnsect.

Robot DEAnsect

Each of the three limbs of the robot contains one artificial muscle, which is a polymer membrane sandwiched between two soft electrodes. When low voltage voltage is applied to these electrodes, the electrodes are attracted to each other, compressing the membrane located between them. When the voltage is removed, the electrodes cease to attract and the membrane returns to its original state.

Such cycles of on-off voltage on the electrodes are produced with a frequency of about 400 times per second, causing the artificial muscle to vibrate. And the synchronized vibration of three limbs allows the DEAnsect to move at speeds up to 3 centimeters per second.
There are currently two versions of the DEAnsect robot. The first option does not have its own power source, it receives energy from an external source and commands from an external control system through the thinnest conductors. However, this option has the highest reliability, it is able to fully recover and continue to move even after a strong blow by a fly swatter.

The second version of the DEAnsect robot is equipped with its own battery and microcontroller. Using photodiode “eyes”, this robot is able to track certain images and marks, and move along them in a given direction.

Researchers are currently working on a system that will allow individual DEAnsect robots to communicate with each other and coordinate their actions and movements. In addition, another version of DEAnsect, which has an absolutely soft body, is being created, which will allow the new robot to survive even stronger external influences.

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