Jumping Silicon Microrobots

This project aims to create millimeter-scale MEMS-based jumping robots. These microrobots can be used in applications ranging from mobile sensor networks to planetary exploration. By using a simple two-mask Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI) fabrication process, planar mechanisms are easily integrated with electrostatic actuators. These electrostatic motors do mechanical work on a shuttle to store mechanical energy via the bending and stretching of silicon springs. Once a sufficient amount of energy has been stored, the motors release the stored energy and the microrobot can jump. An added benefit of these motors is their low power requirement; the motors can operate using ~100 uW to generate over 1 mN of force. To achieve full autonomy, the microrobot will need a CMOS chip for sensing and control, as well as a system for energy scavenging and storage. Currently, we’ve demonstrated a prototype capable of storing 4 uJ of mechanical energy using onboard motors with tethered power.


  • Joseph T. Greenspun


  • Kristofer S.J. Pister