A group of researchers have developed a new technology based on mini force fields to boost minibots’ team work abilities. Until now, minirobots could only perform simple tasks such as moving in a direction as a group, but engineers hope that their discovery could allow them to perform more elaborate tasks.
If engineers manage to turn the minibots, which are now about 2 mm wide, into microrobots of a size of 250 microns, the tiny machines could be employed in various fields including medical sciences and micro-scale manufacturing. But until then, their developers need to come up with a method to expand their autonomy.
Because they are too small, they cannot run on conventional batteries. David Cappelleri, the leader of the team that has developed the bots and researcher with Purdue University, dreams of the day when the minibots will be able to perform ‘manipulation tasks’ just like ant colonies do.
Cappelleri noted that ants can both work as a whole, but they can also move independently, so it is important to improve the robots so they can be controlled individually but also work as a team.
The group of researchers explained that the only way to expand the robots’ autonomy (since there is no way for them to run on electricity) is to find an external source of power that can keep them going. So, the engineers came up with the idea of magnetic fields and magnetic forces.
Researchers dubbed the technology ‘mini force fields.’ Plus, the method allows them to have a control on each individual robot by adjusting the intensity of the magnetic fields around the tiny bots.
But first, the team needs to find a way to calculate the necessary force to make a robot move from point A to point B or to perform a more complex task. When they have the necessary data they can adjust the strength of the magnetic field to get the robot going.
The minibots can react to a surrounding force field because they are virtually magnetic disks. During their research, engineers observed that the magnetic field needs to be finer in order to allow the machines move within it with great accuracy. So, they found a better method of generating magnetism across the bots’ workplace.
If the size of the machines can be further reduced, they could be used to build minuscule machines that could perform non-invasive medical surgeries or have countless applications in the defense industry.
Image Source: Robotnor