Categories
Future

Origami looking robots

A research team has created folding origami-looking robots that do not rely on semiconductors.

The challenge

In the past this has been a difficult balance to find, as
rigid semiconductors cannot be placed on foldable devices. Similarly, regular computer chips are too heavy to be placed on lightweight devices. Advanced robot capabilities like analysing, sensing and responding to the environment can traditionally only be performed by these computer chips.

The team at the University of California (UCLA) got around some of these issues with innovative technology. Electrically conductive and flexible semiconductor materials embedded into a pre-cut thin polyester film sheet act as a network of transistors. Then, sensors and actuators can be integrated in.

Once the materials were cut, folded and assembled, the sheet became a robot able to sense, analyse and respond to its environment.

Origami MechanoBots

The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering group made three versions of the ‘OrigaMechs’ (Origami MechanoBots):

·        A walking robot that can reverse if its antennae
sense an obstacle.

·        A ‘Venus flytrap-like’ robot that can enclose its
‘prey’ when its jaws detect an object.

·        A two-wheeled robot that can move along pre-designed
paths of geometric patterns, and can be reprogrammed.

The team hopes to make the robots autonomous with an
embedded thin-film lithium battery power source in the future. For the demonstration they were connected to a power source.

Going forward

There are high hopes for the OrigaMechs and their successors in the future, since small lightweight robotics could have a wide range of uses. Its potential uses include situations involving strong magnetic or radiative fields, high electrostatic discharges, or intense radio frequencies.
These environments are usually unsuitable for regular semiconductors. The OrigaMechs can also be specially designed for functions and manufactured quickly.

The team are especially hopeful that the robots could be
used for future space missions. Weight and size are two vital factors in space cargo, so these essentially flat-pack robots could be endlessly useful.

Enter the fold

For those sourcing regular semiconductors, contact Cyclops. We can source day-to-day or hard to find components with ease, and can guarantee our customers the best price. Get in touch via sales@cyclops-electronics.com or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

Disclaimer: This blog is purely for informational
purposes and is not instructional. 

Categories
Electronic Components Future Technology

Semiconductors in Space

A post about semiconductors being used in space travel would be the perfect place to make dozens of space-themed puns, but let’s stay down to earth on this one.

There are around 2,000 chips used in the manufacture of a single electric vehicle. Imagine, then, how many chips might be used in the International Space Station or a rocket.

Despite the recent decline in the space semiconductor market, it’s looking likely that in the next period there will be a significant increase in profit.

What effect did the pandemic have?

The industry was not exempt from the impact of the shortage and supply chain issues caused by covid. Sales decreased and demand fell by 14.5% in 2020, compared to the year-on-year growth in the years previous.

Due to the shortages, many companies within the industry delayed launches and there was markedly less investment and progress in research and development. However, two years on, the scheduled dates for those postponed launches are fast approaching.

The decline in investment and profit is consequently expected to increase in the next five years. The market is estimated to jump from $2.10 billion in 2021 all the way up to $3.34 billion in 2028. This is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.89%.

What is being tested for the future

In the hopes of ever improving the circuitry of spaceships there are several different newer technologies currently being tested for use in space travel.

Some component options are actually already being tested onboard spacecrafts, both to emulate conditions and to take advantage of the huge vacuum that is outer space. The low-pressure conditions can emulate a clean room, with less risk of particles contaminating the components being manufactured.

Graphene is one of the materials being considered for future space semiconductors. The one-atom-thick semiconductor is being tested by a team of students and companies to see how it reacts to the effects of space. The experiments are taking place with a view to the material possibly being used to improve the accuracy of sensors in the future.

Two teams from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are currently looking at the use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) in space too. This, and other wide bandgap semiconductors show promise due to their performance in high temperatures and at high levels of radiation. They also have the potential to be smaller and more lightweight than their silicon predecessors.

GaN on Silicon Carbide (GaN on SiC) is also being researched as a technology for amplifiers that allows satellites to transmit at high radio frequency from Earth. Funnily enough, it’s actually easier to make this material in space, since the ‘clean room’ vacuum effect makes the process of epitaxy – depositing a crystal substrate on top of another substrate – much more straightforward.

To infinity and beyond!

With the global market looking up for the next five years, there will be a high chance of progress in the development of space-specialised electronic components. With so many possible advancements in the industry, it’s highly likely it won’t be long before we see pioneering tech in space.

To bring us back down to Earth, if you’re looking for electronic components contact Cyclops today to see what they can do for you. Email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.