USA’s Northwestern University develops smallest man-made flying structures

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Desk Reporter
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This flying microchips, or microfliers, are the smallest-ever human-made flying structures.

USA’s leading private research and teaching financial institution, Northwestern University’s engineers have developed electronic microchips that can fly. These are the tiniest flying structures ever created by humans.

According to the reports, these flying microchips, or microfliers, are the size of a sand grain and can fly without any motor or engine, much like a maple leaf or air-borne seeds of plants.

The microflier’s aerodynamics is designed to allow it to fall in a stabilized way at a slow velocity. This allows them to stay in the air longer and scatter over a larger area. These characteristics make it excellent for monitoring air pollution and diseases spread through the air.

Northwestern University’s Mr. John A. Rogers, who led the device’s development, said in a press release, “Our goal was to add a winged flight to small-scale electronic systems, with the idea that these capabilities would allow us to distribute highly functional, miniaturized electronic devices to sense the environment for contamination monitoring, population surveillance, or disease tracking.”

“We were able to do that using ideas inspired by the biological world. Over the course of billions of years, nature has designed seeds with very sophisticated aerodynamics. We borrowed those design concepts, adapted them, and applied them to electronic circuit platforms,” Mr. Rogers added.

The biological world inspired the design. The movement of the microflier is comparable to that of a propelled maple leaf falling from a height.

As per the reports, “Engineers studied the aerodynamics of several plant seeds.” The tristellateia plant served as the most direct source of inspiration for them. It’s a flowering vine with bladed seeds in the shape of stars. The blade-like structure helps the seeds to catch the wind to fall with a slow, rotating spin.

“These microfliers can be packed with ultra-miniaturized technology. These include sensors, a power source to harvest ambient energy, memory storage, and an antenna to wirelessly transfer data to another device,” according to the statement.

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