Robots can be Powered by Alcohol

All of us know that robots are usually battery powered piece of technology. But it’s totally different with RoBeetle. This robot, a very small device, with the size of an insect, is a non-battery or plug socket technology.

The robot, with less than 1 gram of weight, operated with methanol. For your information, methanol is an alcohol type of compound, usually found in solvents and antifreeze.

But, liquid fuels like methanol can hold more energy per unit volume than batteries, especially on a small scale.

It means that this methanol-powered micro robots don’t require an additional external power source, such as wires or electromagnetic fields. Therefore, theoretically they could move around with more autonomy than their electrically powered counterparts while retaining their minuscule size.

In a new study that has just published recently, researchers designed a tiny artificial muscles that can contract and relax—just like the reality in our body. The system uses nickel-titanium alloy wires covered in a platinum powder, which speeds up the burning of methanol vapor.

This method produces heat, which causes wires in the robot’s legs to shorten and, after cooling, re-extend. This sequence can drive the RoBeetle’s movement.

In their report on Science Robotics, the RoBeetle itself weighs only 88 milligrams and can haul objects up to 2.6 times its own weight. 

It can carry an additional 95 milligrams of fuel, which could power the robot for up to 2 hours. It’s also capable of climbing up slopes and can navigate surfaces with all kinds of different textures, including glass, a foam sleeping pad, and a concrete sidewalk.

Currently, the scientists need to figure out how to refuel the robot to keep it continuously powered over longer periods. If they can program the RoBeetle to communicate with its human operator, methanol-powered microbots could one day act as artificial pollinators or assist complex surgeries. Interesting.

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