Large robots like Boston Dynamics's SpotMini, as a rule, do not have any special problems with battery power. Due to their large size, voluminous power sources can be installed in them, but it is impossible to place them on tiny insect robots. This is the main disadvantage of miniature mechanisms, although they can be useful for inconspicuous reconnaissance of territories. However, Chinese scientists recently managed to create a mechanism that flaps its wings under the influence of sunlight.
The creators of a new kind of wings for tiny robots are professors Ningyi Yuan and Jianning Ding. They called their development Flexible Bio-Butterfly Wing (FBBW). Researchers initially understood that the main drawback of small robots that could fly was their short time due to too tiny power sources. In attempts to create technology that allows such robots to work without batteries, they found a very original solution to the problem.
Robots without batteries
The invented wings are made of a polymer film, the upper part of which is covered with tiny metal crystals. Under the influence of sunlight, metal particles heat up the polymer film and cause it to expand. Subsequently, the wing is twisted and the upper part with metal particles is in the shade and the material almost instantly cools. When the temperature drops, the wing takes on its original shape, again allowing sunlight to heat the surface and provoke a new flap of the wings.
The technology is simple and ingenious in its own way. By changing the parameters of the wings, the engineers were able to achieve a wave frequency of 4.5 Hz. This is more than the frequency of swings of real butterflies. According to the researchers, using these wings, you can now create a small floating machine and a generator that generates electricity from the flapping of “solar wings”.
Unfortunately, an insect robot equipped with new wings does not exist at the moment. But most likely, in the near future they will be used precisely to create such mechanisms. Among their engineering works, there are just butterfly robots that such wings would not hinder.
But the "solar wings", of course, have drawbacks. For example, robots equipped with them will not be able to work in rainy conditions, in fog and at night. But scientists say that you can make them move with the help of simulated sunlight. After all, the main thing for their work is not just sunlight, but warm rays that fall at a certain angle.