Researchers create tiny, alcohol-powered robot insect


A micro-robot the size of an insect and powered by alcohol is the new invention of researchers at the University of Southern California, in the United States. The device, in the shape of a beetle, whose details were revealed on Wednesday (19), is capable of performing various tasks in places difficult to access by humans.

Called RoBeetle, it works with methanol, unlike other similar devices, usually powered by batteries. The choice for liquid fuel was no accident, as in addition to avoiding the use of wires and other components, methanol retains more energy, on a small scale, increasing its autonomy.

Another detail that draws attention is the robot insect’s locomotion system, made up of tiny artificial muscles, capable of contracting and relaxing, just like the real ones. A chemical reaction initiated with the burning of fuel vapor is responsible for the movement of the nickel-titanium alloy wires present in his legs.

Weighing only 88 mg and measuring 15 mm, the RoBeetle can also carry objects up to 2.6 times its weight, despite being one of the smallest and lightest autonomous robots ever created, and can function for up to two hours with a full tank, as those responsible for the project.

Different utilities

The alcohol-powered robot insect can move on floors of different textures, such as glass, concrete, fabric and others. It has been tested on flat and sloped surfaces, doing well on all of them.

With its compact dimensions and characteristics, the “robot beetle” can perform the most varied types of tasks. Among the possibilities mentioned, are its use in complex surgeries, assisting doctors and other health professionals, and as an artificial pollinator.

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To do so, they need to be programmed to communicate with human operators and increase their autonomy, some of the next steps to be taken by developers.


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