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Robot hangs with electrostatic force

Nature volume 533, page 441 (26 May 2016) | Download Citation

A lightweight flying robot can attach to and take off from objects in the environment by controlling electrostatic adhesion.

Image: AAAS

Moritz Graule and Robert Wood at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and their colleagues designed the insect-sized robot (pictured) to suspend from overhangs, such as those on trees and buildings. The top of the device has a patch containing copper electrodes. Switching on the voltage between the electrodes induces opposing charges on the surface of a nearby target, generating an electrostatic attraction. Switching off the voltage releases the robot. The device can cling to a variety of surfaces, including glass, wood and leaves.

The authors suggest that this mechanism could help small aerial robots to conserve their energy and stay aloft for longer periods.

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