Research by NIFTI graduate student Yogesh Chukewad‘s, in NIFTI PI Sawyer Fuller’s lab, was featured in a Wired article. Yogesh works on designing and refining centimeter-scale aerial robots and has been recently working on the movement capabilities of tiny robots. This Wired article was published alongside a manuscript titled “A laser-microfabricated electrohydrodynamic thruster for centimeter-scale aerial robots” on arXiv.
As part of the optimization of small robots, researchers are looking to develop new ways to power their propulsion systems. A newer way that is still in development is ion propulsion, which can provide tiny pushes based on solar power. Atmospheric ion propulsion involves air molecules being bombarded with electrons, causing charged ions to move towards a negatively charged metal comb. As the charged ions move towards the comb, they collide with other molecules, which provides a thrust upwards. This allows for a small scale propulsion system, with the only power needed to produce the ions.
Currently the resulting robot produces between collaborating Fuller and Novosselov labs, has four ion thrusters that are controllable separately, and a tethered power line for the entire robot. An innovation allowing for quick and more efficient development has been laser cutting the electrode and collector in a few minutes. This allows for researchers to test different shapes of electrodes and different materials.
Yogesh has also recently been recognized for helping design the first wireless fly sized drone.