Robotic insect takes flight

A life-size, robotic fly has taken flight at Harvard University.Weighing only 60 milligrams, with a wingspan of three centimeters, thetiny robot's movements are modeled on those of a real fly. While muchwork remains to be done on the mechanical insect, the researchers saythat such small flying machines could one day be used as spies, or fordetecting harmful chemicals.

Ultimately, the team developed its own fabrication process. Usinglaser micromachining, researchers cut thin sheets of carbon fiber intotwo-dimensional patterns that are accurate to a couple of micrometers.Sheets of polymer are cut using the same process. By carefullyarranging the sheets of carbon fiber and polymer, the researchers areable to create functional parts.

By fitting many little carbon-polymer pieces together, theresearchers are able to create rather complicated parts that can bendand rotate precisely as required. To make parts that will move inresponse to electrical signals, the researchers incorporateelectroactive polymers, which change shape when exposed to voltage.

Source: technologyreview.comAdded: 30 August 2007