Microbot Swarms

Swarms of small robotic devices can be used to collect sensory data, gather samples, map terrains, and assemble and construct objects. The qualities of a swarm of small objects make these tasks applicable in a variety of forms. They may be used to perform medical diagnostics inside a body or explore objects in space.

Ant-Sized Microbots Travel in Swarms – [popsci.com]

While Hollywood focuses on robots several times taller than humans, some researchers are building tiny robots that could fit on your fingernail. These microbots would work in swarms to collect data for a variety of applications, such as surveillance, micromanufacturing, and medicine.

Tiny Toilers: Precision-Controlled Microbots Show They Could Take On Industrial-Scale Jobs – [scientificamerican.com]

A pioneering research institute that introduced the computer world to the mouse, hypertext and networks is now setting its sights a bit lower. A team of engineers at SRI International, a nonprofit contract research and development lab in Menlo Park, Calif., has harnessed simple, magnetically levitated microbots to build structures and perform other sophisticated tasks at small size scales.

Many such floating microbots could be made to work in concert, something like mechanical ant colonies, to construct objects and carry out many other useful applications, says Ron Pelrine, chief scientist at SRI’s Robotics, Engineering Research and Development Division. He suggests, for example, that they would be suited for micro-assembly jobs in plants that fabricate micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) chips or rapid prototyping of novel structures with embedded electronics such as sensors and portable diagnostic devices. They might also do small-scale tasks in biological and medical fields such as cell printing or forming complex tissue-growth media.

FIELD AND SPACE ROBOTICS LABORATORY – Microbots – [mit.edu]

Overview

This project studies a new mission concept for planetary exploration, based on the deployment of a large number of small spherical mobile robots (“microbots”) over vast areas of a planet’s surface and subsurface, including structures such as caves and near-surface crevasses. This would allow extremely large-scale in situ analysis of terrain composition and history. This approach represents an alternative to rover and lander-based planetary exploration, which is limited to studying small areas of a planet’s surface at a small number of sites. The proposed approach is also distinct from balloon or aerial vehicle-based missions, in that it would allow direct in situ measurement.

In the proposed mission, a large number (i.e. hundreds or thousands) of cm-scale, sub-kilogram microbots would be distributed over a planet’s surface by an orbital craft and would employ hopping, bouncing and rolling as a locomotion mode to reach scientifically interesting artifacts in very rugged terrain. They would be powered by high energy-density polymer “muscle” actuators, and equipped with a suite of miniaturized imagers, spectrometers, sampling devices, and chemical detection sensors to conduct in situ measurements of terrain and rock composition, structure, etc. Multiple microbots would coordinate to share information, cooperatively analyze large portions of a planet’s surface or subsurface, and provide context for scientific measurements.

SEE ALSO:
Self-Assemblying Swarms of Microrobots
Cheap Kilobot Swarms
Swarm Intelligence

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