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Flying Robots Made From Cellophane? 148

Posted by Zonk
from the wrap-around-heads-as-weapons dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers have discovered that ordinary cellulose is a piezoelectric and smart material that can flap when exposed to an electric field. ScienceNOW reports that electricity can give life to cellophane. When you put a very thin layer of gold on each side of cellophane, and that you apply electric current to the gold layers, one positive, one negative, the cellophane curved toward the positive side. If you switch the voltage fast enough, the cellophane starts to act as a wing. So it should be possible to use it to build lightweight flying robots carrying cameras, microphones or sensors for surveillance missions. Read more for additional references and pictures about this electroactive paper (EAPap)."
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Flying Robots Made From Cellophane?

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  • Bah, I'm too late, it flew away already! :(
  • I'm angry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @04:49PM (#15646979) Homepage
    So today on Slashdot we've got flying robots and cars that drive themselves, but nowhere do I see the flying car that Popular Mechanics has been telling us is only five years away for the last several decades.
  • by tokki (604363)
    Soon, we will have our promised ornithoptors!
    • by dfedfe (980539) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:16PM (#15647072)
      And given that they have a casting cost of 0, we'll have a ton of them.
    • Re:Dune (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Already done. You can even build your own.

      http://www.ornithopter.org/ [ornithopter.org]
    • Gotta love House Atreides
      • Yeah, but what's up with that Sonic Tank they have? I much prefer the Ordos Deviator's nerve gas attack.
  • Not Piezoelectric (Score:5, Informative)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @04:55PM (#15647002)
    Cellophane isn't piezoelectric. It is just very amenable to carrying a lot of static charge, which is what is being employed in this case.
    • "antennas convert microwaves directly to DC"... yeah right.

      Anything that is powered by static electricity is going to be very weak.

      • by fiendo (217830)
        Anything that is powered by static electricity is going to be very weak.



        Hmm, think I'll grab a metal umbrella and go stand outside in this lightning storm to test that out.


        Don't wait up, I'll be back in a flash...

    • by gardyloo (512791) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:14PM (#15647066)
      Not so sure about that. According to the article, *cellulose* IS piezoelectric, which may or may not be due to some small-scale movement of otherwise static charge. Cellophane is made from processed cellulose (I'm not sure of the details). I agree that cellophane is amenable to carrying static charge (thus the success -- and frustration -- of cellophane wrap). On the other hand, piezoelectricity is also caused by interactions of (mostly) static charges, usually in certain symmetry classes of crystals.
            Some "sheet transducers" used in ultrasonics (and the really expensive "plastic sheet" speakers) sound an awful lot like this "recent" advance. I'm starting to wonder how new this result really is.
      • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @06:40PM (#15647381)
        Are not piezoelectric and do not use cellophane.

        They work by putting an electrostatic charge on a mylar sheet, which is close to what the GP poster said.

        And what you call cellophane wrap is not made of cellophane (or cellulose). It's regular petrochemical plastic based.

        Cellophane (both wrap and tape) hasn't been in households for a long time now, at least 30 years.
        • Cellulose tape is still fairly common. At least in europe, where Sellotape is the leading brand. 3M/Scotch is all plastic though. We used to use Sellotape in preference to plastic tape for packing with hand-held tape dispensers, as cellulose tape curls out, away from the body of the dispenser, but plastic tape curls in, & tends to get stuck to the dispenser.
          • In the US, Cellophane tape is not common anymore. Plastic tape is more common.

            But my comments about the other stuff still stand. The clingy wrap people often call cellophane isn't cellulose-drived. Cellophane isn't clingy, in fact it is rather crinkly. When it was used as a kitchen wrap, you had to tape or rubber band it onto bowls.

            Candy wrappers are sometimes still cellophane. Think of the crinkliness of the wrappings on hard candy and how non-clingy they are.
    • I am becoming gerund, destroyer of verbs.
      No, you are becoming participle, creator of adjectives.
  • by inteller (599544) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:03PM (#15647027)
    ....our new paper thin flying overlords.
  • One comment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bytesex (112972) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:07PM (#15647036) Homepage
    As per usual; the powersource ?
    • Shouldn't be too difficult to power if it remains light - solar panels, perhaps. I can't imagine it needing much more than small batteries to operate cellophane + gold wings, though, even with a (light) payload.
    • Dragging a thin golden wire all the way back from NSA headquarters.
    • It's powered by /. posters who don't read TFA.

      Wires aren't necessary, because the cellulose is sensitive enough to be controlled by microwaves (an antenna converts them into dc current).

      Microwave power transmission
      I suggest all the turbo /. nerds read the actual paper [acs.org] (PDF) and tell us more about what's going on. It goes into much depth and will undoubtedly scratch your itch for information.

      The electrical power consumption was 18 mW, which
      corresponds to 5 mW/cm2. This low electrical power consumption
      is prom

      • Microwave ? But doesn't that mean you'd always need line-of-sight with one of these babies ? Plus, there's circuitry when you want to make it do anything but just fly, and something for tracking; line-of-sight is fine an'all, but how are you going to track something that's practically translucent beyond a distance of, say, a couple of meters ?
    • Really small hamsters. Of course, designing the wheel that small might be a problem.
  • Speakers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Poromenos1 (830658) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:13PM (#15647064) Homepage
    Could this be used for speakers? Aren't there some speakers that use a membrane instead of the normal speaker cone?
    • Re:Speakers? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tx (96709)
      Piezoelectric speakers are nothing new, but I don't think cellophane would have any advantages at all over the ceramic materials used currently. And as for electrostatic speakers (which is what I think you're referring to), they don't use a pizoelectric effect, so I don't think this would have any relevance there.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So it should be possible to use it to build lightweight flying robots carrying cameras, microphones or sensors for surveillance missions.


    Read: Porn
  • by raider_red (156642) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:20PM (#15647092) Journal
    The first time I read that, I read it as "Flying Robots Made From Cell Phones". That would be seriously scary, getting attacked by a bunch of flying cell phones could ruin your whole day.
  • Cool! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Groo Wanderer (180806) <{moc.etaruccaimes} {ta} {eilrahc}> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:22PM (#15647098) Homepage
    Wow, featherweight sub-gram flying things! I wonder if they can lift the the 23 kilo car battery needed to power it? Still, way cool.

    I am going to wait for the one that can carry the HD camera though, is it worth investing in SD parts at this point in time?

                      -Charlie
    • Re:Cool! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I wonder if they can lift the the 23 kilo car battery needed to power it?

      Supposing two of them carry it together?

  • Wingspans.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ergasiophobia (971409) <deepsixomega@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:25PM (#15647118) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't the wingspans needed to support even a light payload with flapping wings be too large for the cellophane wing to even support it's own weight?
    • Re:Wingspans.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @06:31PM (#15647353) Homepage Journal
      Wouldn't the wingspans needed to support even a light payload with flapping wings be too large for the cellophane wing to even support it's own weight?

      Thats correct, though people may develop lightweight payloads as well. Here in Melbourne a bunch of peoople used to (and perhaps still do) fly model airplanes in the domed reading room of the state library. This is a really big room with still air. The planes are made of small amounts of balsa and a sheet made by dripping a plastic compound onto the surface of bath of water. They were powered by a rubber band.

      One of these planes would fly slowly to the roof over about five minutes and glide slowly to the floor. They flew at (I suppose 10 or 20 cm/s). One day I witnessed a disaster when the airconditioning got turned on by accident and the entire fleet got caught in a scale hurricane.

    • It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.
  • SWAT... (Score:2, Funny)

    by dinther (738910)
    Gotcha
  • If they make them with nitrocellulose [wikipedia.org], then swarms of tiny exploding fly drones could be the new terror weapon. Don't say I didn't warn you!
  • explain (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cool_arrow (881921)
    What does cellulose have to do with cellophane? Aren't trees and plants made of cellulose? Is cellophane modeled after cellulose? Could a plant eater eat cellophane?
    • As you can see from Wiki [wikipedia.org] EGGMAN RULZ, er, that cellophane is made from cellulose. I wonder if they could use cellulite [wikipedia.org] which is manufactured from stupidity?
      • No no no, cellulite is manufactured by marketing people. Stupidity is what makes people get bothered by it, which is why the marketing people have an easy time over it. One day, perhaps sooner than you think, it will be fashionable again to be what we now call "overweight"; and then it'll be the thin people's turn to get the dirty end of the stick.
    • Is cellophane modeled after cellulose?
      Model? Cellu...lose? Is this going to make my ass look big?
    • Cellophane [wikipedia.org]
  • ... welcome our gum-wrapper overlords!
  • Attack of the killer BigMac cartons! Directed by Ed Wood.

    Bonus points if you build a Mars Lander out of AOL disks.
           
  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3.justconnected@net> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @06:36PM (#15647367)
    Ok. We have some gold-plated cellophane. How is that a "flying robot"? Not meaning to troll, but isn't that a bit of a leap? I understand how, possibly, that would be useful. But there are other things to a wing than just flapping. There's aerodynamics, and flapping, and such. Aren't there more efficent means of flight than cellophane wings, even if they were feasible? No, I havn't RTFA but I'd be willing to guess that nobody has actually built one of these wings.

    What is the reason for one of these things? Are they more energy efficent?

    The only thing I can think that these would actually hold up (if they could do anything) would be something smaller than a bumblebee. What can a fly-sized robot do? And, in 50 years when we have useful ones, won't we have another means of flight?
  • Gold? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lally Singh (3427) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @06:39PM (#15647376) Journal
    Why's it gotta be something rare and expensive, like gold? Why not old butter? I've got lots of old butter.
  • positive? (Score:2, Insightful)

    When you put a very thin layer of gold on each side of cellophane, and that you apply electric current to the gold layers, one positive, one negative, the cellophane curved toward the positive side.

    Soooo...we can create positive currents now? *sigh* There are so many errors in grammar here, in addition to the errors in theory. Could we get some editors that actually know the language a little better? Day after day of insanely bad summaries.
    • I'm guessing that by positive they really meant voltage, not current. There wouldn't be current at all since cellophane doesn't conduct electricity.
    • i think they were defining the sides, not the current.
    • Yep, positive current. We generate some positrons and feed them into a a matter-antimatter reaction chamber. That's what is actually needed to power these, uh, tiny things. We didn't think it could be done until Geordi inverted the warp field and hooked up a mini-deflector dish to each of the flying cellophane wrapp... ah, 'robots'.

      Now all we need to do is make these things able to carry a payload of some decription without collapsing under the strain... They should do someday in some form, but this early

  • by zptao (979069)
    This would easily fail if you used it for any period of time; enviromental interference would be enough to disrupt or overcharge the current.
  • "Flying Robots Made From Cellphone"?

    I'd thought the phones were taking over. I need to buy a new one now.

  • And on a rainy day, the robots will stay at home. Don't buy if you live in U.K!
  • So we're not going to have to worry about alien invasions, we're going to invent the Autons ourselves . . .
  • by NoseBag (243097) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @07:42PM (#15647534)
    ...cause quite a flap.

  • by Speare (84249) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @07:45PM (#15647542) Homepage Journal

    Hey, kids, let's do a little experiment together, shall we? Don't forget your shop glasses. Let's get started.

    You're going to need a few household items.

    • some ordinary cellophane tape
    • an ordinary low-voltage lantern cell or battery
    • some ordinary low-gauge solid Bell wire
    • a small sample of 24 carat gold
    • a molecular sump to achieve 10^-10 torr
    • a helix-shaped 5 kilowatt tungsten heating filament
    • a hypobarometric chamber reinforced against 10^-10 torr

    Have your mom or dad, or favorite grad student uncle, to assist you in using the equipment to achieve an even mono-molecular deposition of gold onto your cellophane tape...

  • Just think -- it should now be possible to recycle the giant ball of candy wrappers that I've accumulated over the last thirty years...
  • I hate to say it, and I'm only going to say it this once, but I'm seeing this story and most others on Digg.com first. Of course it's because the story gets held up at /. because the moderators have to review it whereas at Digg.com the promotion of the story is almost instantaneous by the users. I like Slashdot's commentary system better, because there is more room for discussion compared to the Digg system which seems to be based on quick snippets expressed here and there before the edit timer runs out or
    • I hate to say it, and I'm only going to say it this once...


      From looking at your recent deluge of Digg promoting posts it would appear either someone has been using your ID without your permission, or you're a prevaricating masochist.

  • So it should be possible to use it to build lightweight flying robots carrying cameras, microphones or sensors for surveillance missions.

    Right... and this is going to do so much better than my lightweight AirHogs remote control plane when the wind is over 5mph. (not) In still air, sure. But how much of that can you count on to be able to depend upon such a craft for surveillance purposes? It's way too much of a maybe.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @08:11PM (#15647594) Homepage

    It's Roland the Plogger again, writing about something called EA-Pap. That's so Roland.

    Piezoelectric films are not new. PVDF films like Kynar [welchfluorocarbon.com] are peizoelectric, and they've been used for hydrophones, speakers, and pressure sensors for years.

    Actually, the big recent advance in pizeoelectric actuators is subminiature rotary motors like this Squiggle [newscaletech.com] device. Now, very tiny motors can be made for applications like camera lens autofocus. The initial application looks to be cramming autofocus machinery into cell phone cameras.

  • Are these things african or european?
  • You know, this would have been a great April Fool's story.....
  • I really wonder how many winshields will be trashed by flying gold plated cellophane insects... you know.. it's like a bullet... and if you're on the highway and hit one, they might think that it was a lost bullet... or a drive-by if there was a bunch of them :P

    We all know that there will be a lot of them that will be trashed because they got in a gust of wind and got crashed in a wall, hit by a car... or mistaken as an insect and pummeled to death by a scared lady...
    • I really wonder how many winshields will be trashed by flying gold plated cellophane insects... you know.. it's like a bullet... and if you're on the highway and hit one, they might think that it was a lost bullet... or a drive-by if there was a bunch of them
      Well, it would explain how Kennedy and Connally were shot seven times with only one projectile. This must be old tech already ! *paranoia*
  • Surely the bumblebee could be using this concept to fly then?

    Also perhaps could tap into radio, microwaves and solarwinds to fly using this method?
  • Oh, great. So now, when Skynet [wikipedia.org] launches its attack on the human race and needs raw materials to build additional attackbots, all its androids have to do is to raid the nearest hardware, grocery, or stationery store for some Scotch® Tape [wikipedia.org]? Curse you, Inha and Texas A&M Universities! You have betrayed the human race!
  • McGyver strikes again.

    Is there nothing he can't do?
  • Off base.

    If you're going to power an airplane, you need a Reliable, High-efficiency energy to motion converter. You can't just choose any old motor, especially a totally unproven one. Piezoelectric transducers are not very high efficiency. Then there's cellophane, which is NOT particularly piezoelectric. Even if it was, piezo transducers need hundreds to thousands of volts to really flap-- not something that's readily made from low voltage batteries. And you have the problem that a lot of the bending

  • Nobody seems to have picked up on the fact that this means we will may be able to get things like large lightweight, cheap mems arrays of mirrors powered by a watch battery. I'm looking forward to real nice looking ebooks, tiny passive image projectors, and maybe some inexpensive holography. This stuff sounds great! Only problem is now we definitely will have a spypest(TM) problem, though mostly only in dry climates I imagine (rain will absorb all the microwaves I hope).

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