MIT researchers create firefly-like light emitting robots

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MIT researchers have developed flying, light-emitting robots that can also track motion and communicate.

Researchers at MIT have developed insect-scale robots that can emit light while flying and enable motion tracking and communication, drawing inspiration from fireflies.

Kevin Chen, head of the Soft and Micro Robotics Laboratory in the Study Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), MIT, stated in a research paper that “this is a huge step toward flying these robots in outdoor environments where we do not have a well-tuned, state-of-the-art motion tracking system”.

These robots can be followed using their light emissions and three smartphone cameras, and they each weigh no more than a paper clip.

Fireflies communicate by glowing, either to entice a mate, fend off predators, or attract prey.The story noted that researchers utilised the same idea to create these robots, which are said to converse with one another via the light-emitting function.

According to the report, a robot that locates survivors while on a search-and-rescue mission within a fallen building could utilise lights to alert others and request assistance.

The soft actuators, which are tiny artificial muscles that the robots use to fly, control their wings by emitting coloured light.

To light up these actuators, researchers have employed zinc sulphate particles.But only in the presence of an extremely powerful, high-frequency electric field do the zinc particles light up.The paper stated that as a result of the zinc particles’ electrons being excited by the electric field, photons—subatomic particles of light are released.

The soft actuator was given a strong electric field by using high voltage, which was then utilised to operate the robot at a high frequency, causing the particles to light up.

Using a motion-tracking device, researchers tested flights.iPhone cameras might be used to follow each actuator.To within 2 millimetres of the infrared motion capture systems, the cameras identify each hue of light, and a computer software tracks the position of the robots.

That motion tracking technology will be improved by researchers so that in the future it can track robots in real-time.

Chen continued, “The group is attempting to create control signals to allow the robots to switch on and off during flight and interact more like actual fireflies”.

These robots can be followed using their light emissions and three smartphone cameras, and they each weigh no more than a paper clip.

The soft actuators, which are tiny artificial muscles that the robots use to fly, control their wings by emitting coloured light.

That motion tracking technology will be improved by researchers so that in the future it can track robots in real-time.

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