Microbots are mobile robots, with characteristic dimensions below one micrometer. They are a part of the bigger family of common larger robots and a growing number of smaller nanorobots. In fact, the nature of microbots is common to both their larger and smaller cousins. Being autonomous, microbots use their onboard computers to move in insect-like maneuvers. Often, they are a part of a group of identical units that perform as a swarm does, under the control of a central computer.
With their insect-like form being a common feature, microbots are typically cheap to develop and manufacture. Scientists employ microbots for swarm robotics, using many of them and coordinating their behavior to perform a specific task. Combining many microbots compensates for their lack of individual computational capability, producing a behavior resembling that of an anthill or a beehive where insects cooperate to achieve a specific purpose.
With the field of microbotics still growing, microbots have a long way to develop further. Researchers are working with these devices, and they are investing their money, time, and effort in improving their capabilities.
With each new iteration, scientists are empowering microbots with more processing power, newer modes of locomotion, a larger number of sensors, and expanding their storage methods while providing them with newer techniques of energy harvesting. Recently, there has been a big breakthrough in tiny batteries that can help microbots drive further than ever before.
Generating a 9 VDC output, these tiny batteries are capable of driving motors directly. They stack multiple layers while turning components into packaging.
Several universities and a battery corporation have joined hands in creating the tiny batteries, a novel design that not only produces a high voltage but also boosts its storage capacity.
To unlock the full potential of microscale devices such as microbots, batteries must not only be tiny, they must also be powerful. According to the team that developed the tiny battery, its innovative design uses an improved architecture for its electrodes.
However, this was an unprecedented challenge. As the battery size reduces, the packaging begins to take up more of the available space, leaving precious little for the electrodes and the active ingredients that give the battery its performance.
Therefore, in place of working on the battery chemistry, the team started to work on a new packaging technology. They turned the negative and positive terminals of the battery into actual packaging, thereby saving considerable amounts of space.
By growing fully-dense non-polymer electrodes and combining them with vertical stacking, the team was able to make micro batteries that do not require carbon additives for electrodes. This allowed the micro batteries to easily outperform competitive models in capacity and voltage.
According to the team, limitations of power-dense micro- and nano-scale battery design were primarily due to cell design and electrode architecture. They have successfully created a microscale source of energy that has both volumetric energy density and high power density.
The higher voltage helps to reduce the electronic payload of a microbot. The 9 VDC from the tiny battery can power motors directly, bypassing energy losses associated with voltage boosting, allowing the small robots to either travel further or send more information to their human operators.