Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

LaVern A. Starman, PhD


This thesis includes the design, modeling, and testing of novel, power-scavenging, biologically inspired MEMS microrobots. Over one hundred 500-μm and 990-μm microrobots with two, four, and eight wings were designed, fabricated, characterized. These microrobots constitute the smallest documented attempt at powered flight. Each microrobot wing is comprised of downward-deflecting, laser-powered thermal actuators made of gold and polysilicon; the microrobots were fabricated in PolyMUMPs® (Polysilicon Multi-User MEMS Processes). Characterization results of the microrobots illustrate how wing-tip deflection can be maximized by optimizing the gold-topolysilicon ratio as well as the dimensions of the actuator-wings. From these results, an optimum actuator-wing configuration was identified. It also was determined that the actuator-wing configuration with maximum deflection and surface area yet minimum mass had the greatest lift-to-weight ratio. Powered testing results showed that the microrobots successfully scavenged power from a remote 660-nm laser. These microrobots also demonstrated rapid downward flapping, but none achieved flight. The results show that the microrobots were too heavy and lacked sufficient wing surface area. It was determined that a successfully flying microrobot can be achieved by adding a robust, light-weight material to the optimum actuator-wing configuration—similar to insect wings. The ultimate objective of the flying microrobot project is an autonomous, fully maneuverable flying microrobot that is capable of sensing and acting upon a target. Such a microrobot would be capable of precise lethality, accurate battle-damage assessment, and successful penetration of otherwise inaccessible targets.

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