Northwestern University engineers detailed the design of the first battery-free micro-aircraft in history.one article Published by nature This week revealed the research and development process of what is known as the smallest man-made flying structure ever. These structures will eventually serve as “Large distributed collection of miniaturized wireless electronic devices“, or groups of environmentalists. They plan to be able to carry data, scan the surrounding environment, and provide wireless communication.
The potential uses of these groups are almost limitless: air quality monitoring (and potential interactions with weather), airborne disease transmission control, agricultural automatic seed dissemination, non-invasive wildlife monitoring, law enforcement explosives detection solutions, and Large-scale data dissemination system…or as a large-scale surveillance mechanism and biological warfare tool in Bond movies.
As time and history have shown us, although technology is generally considered to be neutral in nature; human use of it is another matter entirely.The end of the world scene of magical technology is of course easy to imagine, because Black mirror Already done Similar concepts.
But the advantage of this kind of imagination is that they accurately show us what we must avoid when interacting with technology, so we can turn to its advantages.
The helpless design of the microchip is inspired by the propeller seeds of the maple tree in free fall – Samara fruit. These chips have no controllable boosters or the like. Instead, tiny electronic devices can move and maintain in the airflow by physics alone. Maybe it would be more accurate to call them gliders instead of micro air vehicles, but we are not researchers at Northwestern University.
“When these structures fall in the air, the interaction between the air and these wings will cause rotational motion, resulting in a very steady slow descent speed,” said John A. Rogers, one of the engineers behind the device. ) Say.
The optimization of the micro-aircraft is done through computer modeling, looking for the correct design so that they can fall slowly and spread widely. “Computational modeling allows rapid design optimization of the flight structure, resulting in the smallest terminal speed,” said Yonggang Huang, who created the computer model. “Through trial and error, this is impossible.”
For the actual flyer, the engineer first created a 2D flat base that contains all the electronic equipment. The electronic content here can be customized, using ultra-miniaturization technology, including sensors, power supplies, antennas for wireless communication, and embedded memory for storing data. This is particularly important for large-scale manufacturing capabilities: planar technology is the foundation of the semiconductor manufacturing industry. “This strategy of building 3D structures from 2D precursors is very powerful because all existing semiconductor devices are built in a flat layout,” Rogers said. “Therefore, we can use the most advanced materials and manufacturing methods used in the consumer electronics industry to make completely standard, flat, chip-like designs. Then, we just convert them into 3D flying shapes based on principles similar to pop-up books. .”
The base is then glued to a “slightly stretched rubber substrate”, and when relaxed, a “controlled buckling process (…) is initiated, causing the wings to “pop” into a precisely defined three-dimensional shape. “The micro-aircraft must be released in the air; the higher the degree of this, the greater their spread potential. The slower the micro air vehicles fall, the farther they can spread from the release point. Therefore, extending flight time is one of the main goals of engineers.
“We think we have defeated nature,” Rogers said. “At least in the narrow sense, we have been able to construct structures with more stable trajectories and slower terminal speeds than the equivalent seeds seen from plants or trees.”
However, should this technology be further promoted and used actively, then what about all electronic debris? When we rush to the subway, should the clouds and clusters of these micro-aircraft fall on the ground and be pressed under our sneakers? Well, it just so happens that Notrtwestern University also conducts research on transient electronics-electronics is essentially biodegradable after it has completed its intended use.
“We use degradable polymers, compostable conductors, and soluble integrated circuit chips to make this kind of physical transient electronic systems. When they are exposed to water, they will naturally disappear into end products that are not harmful to the environment,” Luo Jie said. “We recognize that recycling a large number of micro-leaflets may be difficult. To solve this problem, these environmentally-absorbable versions will naturally dissolve harmlessly.”