A team of researchers from the Purdue University have managed to achieve individual movement in a swarm of small robots. The scientists have devised a force field to move minibots around, the field making use of repulsive forces.
They use magnetic fields to control the swarm’s movement
The idea isn’t entirely new. In the past, many attempts have been made to induce individual movement in a cluster of mechanical critters. But this process is not without its limitations.
Controlling a dust mite-like robot might seem like a piece of cake, but the problem is not how you achieve control, but how you power it. David Capellari, a scientist working on the project made a few statements regarding the project.
The mechanical engineer said that the robots are too small to be outfitted with an individual power cell. And so, the problem weaves around the concept of powering up the robot. The most reasonable solution would seem to be a global power grid, something strong and capable enough to power up the swarm.
In order to power up the robots and to ensure that they are capable of moving individually, the group of scientists from the Purdue University used a set of planar coils within a much larger system. This ensemble would provide a manipulable magnetic field, used to control the robot’s individually over the grid.
Capellari also declared that similar attempts of individual movement were made in the past, but to no avail. This is indeed the first time someone actually managed to offer individual movement to robots, who belong to a much larger group.
How is this movement achieved?
Using the magnetic properties, the team is capable of providing repulsive forces. These forces can be created by manipulating the electrical currents that flow through the planar coils.
Truly astounding, in this case, is that the scientists not only managed to induce individual movement, but they were able to show that you don’t need a global field in order to control all the individuals in a larger group.
Instead of using a global power field, the team opted for localized force fields. Using these improvements, each minuscule robot is capable of performing any number of tasks at the same time, thus contributing to the swarm.
Scientists have devised a force field to move minibots using planar coils. According to the team of scientists, the technology used to manufacture the planar coils is based on the one available to print circuit boards.
Capellari also added that he wants the minibots to achieve the ant’s degree of movement. He and his team want to aim even higher with this projects, by adding more bots to the collective and reducing them in size.
Presently, all the bots involved in the experiments are as big as a pinhead, but the team wants to make them even smaller.