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MEMS microbots take the spotlight

Posted: 07 May 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? microbot? remote control?

A microrobot fabricated by Switzerland's ETH team in Zurich, compared in size to the head of a fruit fly.

MEMS-based microbots weighing only a few nanograms and measuring a few hundred microns long took the center stage in the Mobile Microrobotics Challenge (MMC) at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Anchorage, Alaska.

The MMC, a product of collaboration between the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society to create the Mobile Microrobotics Challenge, features seven teams competing with micron-scale robots on three tasks. In the two-millimeter dash, the robots will sprint down a track the size of a pinhead. In the second task, the robots will attempt to insert correct pegs into the correct holes. The final freeform task will be up to the teams, but is supposed to demonstrate system reliability, a high level of autonomy, ultralow power consumption and high task complexity.

Because there are no power sources or electronics small enough to fit on such tiny microbots, they are operated by remote control using either electrical, magnetic, or in some cases, both types of fields.

Carnegie-Mellon University microbot is about 500?m in lenghthe same size as an amoeba.

The seven teams competing in the MMC are from, respectively, Carnegie-Mellon University (Pittsburgh), ETH (Zurich), the FEMTO-ST Institute and the Institut des Systemes Intelligents et de Robotique (ISIR, Paris), Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.), the University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland), the University of Waterloo (Ontario) and the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, Maryland).

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times





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