Gone with the wind – Microfliers

Gone with the wind – Microfliers

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

Battery-free microfliers that can change shape in mid-air to vary their dispersal distance

From the research:

Using wind to disperse microfliers that fall like seeds and leaves can help automate large-scale sensor deployments. Here, we present battery-free microfliers that can change shape in mid-air to vary their dispersal distance. We designed origami microfliers using bistable leaf-out structures and uncovered an important property: A simple change in the shape of these origami structures causes two dramatically different falling behaviors. When unfolded and flat, the microfliers exhibit a tumbling behavior that increases lateral displacement in the wind. When folded inward, their orientation is stabilized, resulting in a downward descent that is less influenced by wind. To electronically transition between these two shapes, we designed a low-power electromagnetic actuator that produces peak forces of up to 200 millinewtons within 25 milliseconds while powered by solar cells. We fabricated a circuit directly on the folded origami structure that includes a programmable microcontroller, a Bluetooth radio, a solar power–harvesting circuit, a pressure sensor to estimate altitude, and a temperature sensor. Outdoor evaluations show that our 414-milligram origami microfliers were able to electronically change their shape mid-air, travel up to 98 meters in a light breeze, and wirelessly transmit data via Bluetooth up to 60 meters away, using only power collected from the sun.

Find the full research at

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