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Scientists create light powered ‘Fairy Robot’

Taking inspiration from dandelion seeds, this extraordinary new robot operates solely on a light source to activate its functions. While it may not be competing with Tinkerbell anytime soon, the innovative robot, dubbed FAIRY (Flying Aero-robots based on Light Responsive Materials Assembly), is truly one-of-a-kind and has the potential to pave the way for a novel category of lightweight flying devices.

Modeled after the graceful movement of dandelion seeds drifting in the breeze, the robot is constructed with minuscule 14-micron-thick filaments connected to a light-activated actuator. When exposed to light, these filaments undergo movement, allowing for a variety of configurations. Once its bristles are arranged in a specific manner, the robot can take flight using only the power of the wind.

The designers envision that this robot could play a role in addressing the decline of pollinator insects like bees. Tampere University roboticist Hao Zeng explained, “The FAIRY can be powered and controlled by a light source, such as a laser beam or LED. It might sound like science fiction, but the proof-of-concept experiments in our research demonstrate that the robot we’ve developed represents a significant step towards practical applications suitable for artificial pollination.”

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