Tiny robot leaps around carrying its own battery, electronics

Image of trefoil-shaped electronics.

Enlarge / A Tribot leaps
ahead of its peers. (credit:
EPFL
)

Robots have traditionally been roughly humanoid in form, which
has some obvious advantages, in that the robots are better able to
integrate into a human-designed environment. But there are lots of
environments that aren’t human designed, and researchers have been
experimenting with robotic forms that look
more like insects
or
fish
. Now, a team of Swiss researchers has produced a robot
that looks like nothing more than a walking circuit board. Despite
its small size, though, the robot is able to move by hopping,
leaping, or walking, and it can even work in a group to coordinate
activities.

Meet Tribot

The team calls its creation Tribot, for reasons that are obvious
from its photo above. Tribot looks like a tiny circuit board
because that’s what it largely is, but there are some significant
additions to the circuitry. One is a small lithium polymer battery,
which means all the power for its motions and circuits are carried
on board. The motions are powered by what’s called a shape-memory
alloy
, which can be deformed at one temperature but snap back
into place once the temperature is changed. Flexible hinges and a
polymer core allow these “muscles” to move any of the three legs
either gradually or with a sudden snap, all enabled by tiny heaters
embedded in the hardware.

Another interesting feature of the robot is its construction.
The circuit board and polymer are originally made as a flat,
triangular unit. A couple of folds are all that’s needed to convert
this shape into the Tribot’s trefoil design.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Tiny robot leaps around carrying its own battery, electronics