ULB researchers have created a robot capable of walking on water -
Researchers from ULB's TIPs laboratory - specialized in the study of transport phenomena and fluid interfaces - have developed in collaboration with the French institute FEMTO-ST - specialized in microrobotics - a robot capable of moving on the surface some water ;
The latter exploits the phenomenon of thermocapillarity to move on the surface of a liquid.
In fact, the robot is very different from what we can imagine when we talk about a robot since it is a simple piece of plastic printed in 3D.
However, the latter can still move on the surface of the water.
How? 'Or' What ?
Thanks to a laser projected near it which will heat the water.
It is this physical reaction - and thanks to the phenomenon of thermocapillarity - that the object will move on the surface of the liquid.
The laser heats the surface of the water from 2 to 3 ° C which makes it possible "to control the distribution of a parameter called the surface tension, which induces a complex, but controlled movement of the liquid and allows to move several robots placed at the air-liquid interface ”, explains the ULB press release.
Like an insect
The innovation of this Franco-Belgian study is partly based on the fact that it is interested in an underexploited environment: the surface of the water, yet largely used by insects in nature.
Currently, ThermoBot requires pure water to operate, which necessarily limits the situations in which it could be used.
In reality, there are still many obstacles for the microrobot to have a real utility in itself, but the fact of having managed to move an object in a controlled manner on the water surface is already a great feat and could lead to to other innovations in robotics, but not only.
There is indeed a question of microrobots being integrated into new manufacturing processes.
The ThermoBot could indeed be used to assemble very small objects.
In this case, the movements of the laser would be automated thanks to algorithms.
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