Research

Vision

We work toward fully autonomous milli- to micro-scale robots and sensor networks. Our research includes microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices and fabrication, low power circuits for wireless systems, and wireless sensor network and robot control algorithms.


Current Projects

Single Chip MicroMote (SCμM)

A custom 2x3mm^2 crystal-free radio and ARM Cortex M0 microcontroller capable of full wireless communication (802.15.4 and Bluetooth) with only power, ground, and antenna connections, designed to be a compact microrobot control system or wireless sensor network node. An IR photodiode enables optical programming and HTC Vive Lighthouse-based position sensing with centimeter-scale accuracy in an indoor environment while an ADC and tens of GPIO pins are available for sensors and actuators.

Researchers: Lydia Lee, Alex Moreno, Titan Yuan, Austin Patel, Jackson Paddock

single chip micromote on a penny
SCμM on a US penny

Quadrupedal Walking Micro Robot

An autonomous, walking Silicon quadruped microrobot with a body (MEMS devices and actuators), power (high voltage solar cells), and control (single chip micro mote). By using electrostatic actuation, these legs have the advantage of being low power compared to other microrobot leg designs. This is key to granting the robot autonomy through low-power energy harvesting. We are now developing a next-generation quadruped walking robot that uses zero insertion force MEMS socket designs for assembly.

Researchers: Hani Gomez, Alexander Alvara, Daniel Teal

California Wildfire Detection Mesh Network

We are collaborating with the California Moraga-Orinda Fire District and Analog Devices / Dust Networks to test a wireless mesh network of temperature and humidity sensors along the north edge of Orinda. We spread about 25 sensors over a 200×100 m^2 area, and then the firemen lit some fires. Sensors detected the fire, sent the message back over the mesh network and into the cloud for analysis. It then queued a plane satellite to take a photograph to record the event.

The wireless mesh network status and raw data can be visualized via our Grafana client at http://burnmonitor.com/.

Ionocraft

A flying MEMS robot with no moving parts. A high voltage ionizes and accelerates air molecules, creating an electrohydrodynamic force sufficient to lift its own weight. We are investigating both fabrication and improved minimal-training control techniques. Researchers: Nathan Lamber, Alexander Alvara

MEMS Jumper

A MEMS robot that stores sufficient energy in an etched-silicon spring to jump.

Researchers: Daniel Teal

ZIF Socket

A latching socket capable of joining multiple perpendicular silicon chips with multiple electrical connections and no adhesive.

Researchers: Hani Gomez

MEMS Gripper

A 15 mN force, 3mm displacement low-power MEMS gripper.

Researchers: Daniel Teal, Dillon Acker-James, Hani Gomez

Tactile Stimulator

A small (sub-10x10mm) MEMS chip with an actuator capable of pushing against skin as a low-power tactile stimulator for VR and other HCI applications. Researchers: Dillon Acker-James, Daniel Teal

Fiber Crawler

A MEMS robot capable of pushing, pulling, or crawling along thin (tens of micrometers) cables or carbon fibers. Researchers: Alex Moreno, Austin Patel, Alexander Alvara

Self-Righting Robot

A 1cm x 1cm chip capable of rolling a 1 cc, 1 gram, cube-shaped robot right-side-up after it has fallen on any of its 5 sides. Researchers: Alexander Alvara, Hani Gomez

Berkeley Low-cost Interplanetary Solar Sail (BLISS)

Array of nearly 100 small solar-sail satellites capable of imaging objects in near-Earth orbit. Researchers: Alexander Alvara, Emmanuel Sin, Nathan Lambert

MEMS Airfoils for Autonomous Micro Rockets

Micro scale airfoils designed for high-maneuverability in small-scale rockets. Researchers: Alexander Alvara