Walking Silicon Microrobots

This project focuses on developing a new generation of sub-centimeter MEMS based walking robots. These robots are based on electrostatic actuators driving planar silicon linkages, all fabricated in the device layer of a silicon-on- insulator (SOI) wafer. 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. The ultimate goal will be to join these silicon legs with a CMOS brain, battery power, a high voltage power source, and high voltage buffers to achieve a fully autonomous walking microrobot. Now that we have demonstrated locomotion of a single-legged walking robot through tethered external power, we are shifting our focus to developing a hexapod using a similar actuation scheme. The first generation silicon hexapod will be based on multi- chip assembly using silicon wafer throughole vias and demonstrate a basic dual tripod gait. We have also demonstrated electrostatic inchworm motors capable of actuating a shuttle at 35mm/s. We are also working on a new generation of motors with force generation over 2mN at 65V.


  • Daniel Contreras


  • Kristofer S.J. Pister