Tiny Autonomous Robots Can Move on Human Hair

Cornell University is currently leading the race to create the smallest and most efficient robots. A team from the university recently developed a set of robots small enough to sit on human hair, and with the ability to move on their own using only light as a power source.

Referred to as the Antbots by the team led by Michael Reynolds, the miniscule robots are about the size of an ant, and is considered a mobile electronic machine. Unlike previous systems, they are wireless.

Antbots are made up of three primary systems: a photovoltaic cell for accepting light as power, a microscopic integrated circuit for directing and controlling that power, and hinged legs for moving around.

It may be a bit generous to call the machines ‘autonomous’, but they can operate without direct input or attention, like with a radio signal or pulsed laser coordinating their movements. Its autonomy is in regards to its requirement of only power, and not in regards to its intelligence.

The team developed a few other designs to show how different gaits could be utilized. A ‘dogbot’, a slightly larger and more efficient robot was created which a can accept just a single command. The robot’s intelligence is directly restricted by the scale of the electronics. There isn’t enough space to perform more complex logic.

The team made use of a large silicon fabrication process, using 180 nanometers, when modern chips are made using sub-10-nm processes. Through the reduction of the circuit size in an order of magnitude, the robot could be shrinked, or its intelligence could be multiplied by a similar amount.

By Marvellous Iwendi.

Source: Tech Crunch