Battery Technology

Methanol-Fueled Micromuscle Powers Beetle Bot

In a given mass, methanol has over ten times the energy as tiny batteries. A new robot developed by researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles carries this liquid fuel inside its body, where it powers an artificial micromuscle. The research was published in Science Robotics . To turn methanol into motion, the researchers coated a nickel-titanium alloy wire with platinum. The alloy contracts when heated and extends once cool, and the platinum generates heat by combusting any methanol vapor that it comes in contact with. By varying the exposure to fuel in a periodic pattern, the temperature varies and activates the micromuscle. The tiny 88-mg robot can crawl and climb for over an hour.