Researchers at Cornell University have developed a miniature robot that moves its four limbs by igniting methane and oxygen inside flexible joints.
Robert Shepherd of Cornell University in New York and his colleagues used methane, a chemical fuel that can store energy at a much higher density than lithium-ion batteries and can be scaled to the size of tiny insect-like devices.
The working principle of the mini robot
The robot has four hollow disk-shaped legs with elastomer membranes. Methane and oxygen are fed into the legs from remote reservoirs. The gases are ignited by electrical sparks, causing the membranes to deform more or less, depending on the nature of the explosion.
The reaction is not so violent as to damage the elastomer, and movements can be as small as small jumps of more than half a meter. At the same time, the mini robot can move with 22 times its own weight.
Its creators claim that the robot can be mass-produced at an inexpensive price, and it could be used for search and rescue operations and even for exploring other planets.