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This robot insect, one of the smallest in the world, moves with methanol

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It could be used in the future to locate victims of attacks or natural disasters

Engineers from the University of Southern California have developed a robot insect that runs on methanol and is designed to crawl, climb and carry loads.

It is not the first time that science has been inspired by small insects to reach places that humans cannot. The ‘RoBeetle‘, which is how they have named their creature, does not depend on an external source of energy, since it relies on methanol (simple alcohol obtained from wood) as fuel.

Still, in the design phase, it could potentially be useful in different fields, such as inspecting tiny infrastructures or as a substitute for rescue dogs looking for victims in natural disasters or attacks.

No external power

RoBeetle can lift and carry, thanks to its artificial micro-muscles, 2.6 times its weight, which is just 88 grams, while it measures 15 mm, like a conventional beetle.

These muscles are made up of nickel-titanium wires made of layers of platinum. The robot insect moves by the chemical reaction that methanol undergoes in them. When the methanol heats up, the cables connected to the robot’s legs contract and move closer to each other. When the body cools down, the legs are extended back, allowing movement.

To test the compatibility of the robot on different surfaces, tests have been carried out, which are detailed in the scientific journal ‘Science Robotics‘, with various materials such as foam, glass and the pad, not being able to walk on the first two.

According to engineers, due to methanol, RoBeetle is capable of storing ten times more energy than a battery with the same mass.

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