Nav: Home

'Flapping wings' powered by the sun (video)

February 19, 2020

In ancient Greek mythology, Icarus' wax wings melted when he dared to fly too close to the sun. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have made artificial wings that are actually powered by the sun. The tiny wings, which can flap even faster than those of butterflies, could someday be used in robots or devices for solar energy harvesting, the researchers say. Watch a video of the flapping wings in action here.

Light-driven actuators -- devices that convert light directly into mechanical work -- have attracted attention because they are wireless and easy to control. However, to keep going, they usually require a high-intensity light source that can be turned on and off, or additional hardware. Ningyi Yuan, Jianning Ding and colleagues wanted to develop a flexible film that could convert natural sunlight into a flapping motion, without the need for additional hardware.

To make their device, which they called a flexible bio-butterfly-wing (FBBW), the researchers coated a thin polymer sheet with a nanocrystalline metallic film. When the team fixed one end of the FBBW strip to a support and shone simulated sunlight onto it, the temperature of the strip increased, and the free end curled up because of the large difference in thermal expansion between the metal and polymer layers. Then, the curved part of the FBBW shaded the metallic layer below, causing the temperature to drop and the strip to unfold. Continuous cycles of bending and unfolding produced a flapping motion that could exceed the frequency of actual butterfly wings. The team demonstrated the FBBW in a light-driven whirligig and sailboat, and in a device that converted sunlight into an electric current. It could someday be used in flying animal robots, among other applications, the researchers say.
-end-
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Key Research and Development Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Jiangsu Provincial "333" High-level Talent Training Project.

The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

For more research news, journalists and public information officers are encouraged to apply for complimentary press registration for the ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS' mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS' main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Robots Articles:

Robots popular with older adults
A new study by psychologists from the University of Jena (Germany) does not confirm that robot skepticism among elder people is often suspected in science.
Showing robots how to do your chores
By observing humans, robots learn to perform complex tasks, such as setting a table.
Designing better nursing care with robots
Robots are becoming an increasingly important part of human care, according to researchers based in Japan.
Darn you, R2! When can we blame robots?
A recent study finds that people are likely to blame robots for workplace accidents, but only if they believe the robots are autonomous.
Robots need a new philosophy to get a grip
Robots need to know the reason why they are doing a job if they are to effectively and safely work alongside people in the near future.
How can robots land like birds?
Birds can perch on a wide variety of surfaces, thick or thin, rough or slick.
Soft robots for all
Each year, soft robots gain new abilities. They can jump, squirm, and grip.
The robots that dementia caregivers want: robots for joy, robots for sorrow
A team of scientists spent six months co-designing robots with informal caregivers for people with dementia, such as family members.
Faster robots demoralize co-workers
A Cornell University-led team has found that when robots are beating humans in contests for cash prizes, people consider themselves less competent and expend slightly less effort -- and they tend to dislike the robots.
Increasing skepticism against robots
In Europe, people are more reserved regarding robots than they were five years ago.
More Robots News and Robots Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.