Purdue University researchers control mini-bots with magnetic force fields, all tailored to harness their individual movements for more complex cooperative tasks. The magnetic force fields aren’t only controlling the really miniaturized bots. These are also the robots’ power source.
Professor of mechanical engineering David Cappelleri with Purdue University, West Lafayette, led the ambitious team working on the novel technique to control and power microbots. The end game is that these tiny fellows, just about twice the size of a needlepin, display cooperative behavior in accomplishing a number of tasks.
The unique method differs greatly from previous studies’ results which saw the microbots move altogether in unison instead of independently. Compared to other approaches, Purdue University researchers control mini-bots with magnetic force fields. According to Professor Cappelleri, magnetic force fields allow the microbots independent movement.
In the press release announcing the findings of his team, Professor Cappelleri drew a parallel between the way microbots are controlled with the use of magnetic force fields and ants. Ants perform tasks individually. Yet, these tasks are accomplished for the well-being of the entire colony or group the ants are with. When they are lifting food or moving it towards the colony, they work independently, but show cooperative behavior.
This is the goal that the Purdue University team was targeting. Just as in the ants’ case the mini-robots should be accomplishing tasks individually, but displaying cooperative behavior. To enable them to do so, the Purdue University team designed a magnetic fields system. The magnetic fields system is generated by several in-printed planar coils. It is the planar coils which exert magnetic fields locally to allow the robots to move independently as opposed to one big group. The magnetic fields system triggers the mini-bots’ movements as the planar coils are producing current of varying strength.
The novel technique doesn’t only trigger cooperative behavior with the tiny fellows, but power them as well. As the mini-bots used in the study are about 2mm in diameter, a battery could certainly not be supported by the tiny bodies. Farther, the team wishes to test the magnetic fields system with microbots as small as 250 microns.
There is a wide array of applications for mini-bots powered and controlled via the magnetic fields system. Professor Cappelleri stated that these could be used for instance in microscale manufacturing, medicine or security.
Photo Credits: Purdue University, news.uns.purdue.edu