Robotic fireflies that can track each other and communicate with light emissions

robot luciernaga.jpg
robot luciernaga.jpg

More and more robots are inspired by animals, plants or various insects, and today we have met one in this sense.

It is a robot that was born at MIT using electroluminescent artificial muscles, simulating the behavior of a firefly, since they are capable of controlling their wings and emitting light at the same time.

The idea is to allow robots to communicate with each other using some kind of code. If a robot is searching for someone in a collapsed building, for example, and finds some sign of presence, it could signal other robots with lights, so they can synchronize their tasks.

On the other hand, the ability to emit light saves carrying sensors, as they can be tracked with light. By avoiding sensors, the size of the robot is reduced, increasing autonomy and allowing it to enter places where other robots cannot. The light emitters only increase the weight by 2.5 percent, and do not affect its performance when flying.

The report, published this month in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, shows the manufacturing details, with ultra-thin layers of elastomer and carbon nanotube electrodes that are rolled into a soft cylinder. When a voltage is applied to that cylinder, the electrodes squeeze the elastomer and the mechanical stress shakes the wing. The light is emitted thanks to the use of electroluminescent zinc sulphate particles in the elastomer.

To track this type of robots, they use mobile cameras, capable of detecting each color of light, and with a computer program the position and attitude of the robots is determined with impressive precision.

It’s a big step forward in using electroluminescence in robotics, as it allows less sophisticated equipment to be used and still offers remote tracking.

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.