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Silicon-PDMS Mechanisms for Autonomous Jumping Microrobots

Main Participants

S. Bergbreiter, A. Gerratt, I. Penskiy


This project is sponsored by DARPA.


Microrobotics, MEMS, jumping


Jumping offers numerous benefits to millimeter-sized robots. As the robot size shrinks, obstacles around the robot grow comparatively larger and jumping provides a relatively simple mechanical means of dealing with those obstacles. Ultra low power parasitic locomotion, in which the microrobot uses other objects moving nearby to provide the locomotion power, becomes feasible when the microrobot can jump on and jump off. Finally, for basic functionality, a jumping microrobot benefits from its relative simplicity. It requires only a motor, an energy storage element to store and quickly release mechanical energy for a jump, a controller, and a power supply. However, while the robot itself is fairly simple, the components have performance requirements above those offered by current technologies. By incorporating PDMS elastomers in a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) MEMS process, we can create robust, high performance mechanisms for microrobot locomotion.


The objectives of this project are:

1. Development of monolithic Silicon-PDMS process.

2. Demonstrate energy storage and quick release in PDMS springs for jumping propulsion.

3. Design higher force density motors using PDMS to improve the coefficient of friction in an electrostatic inchworm motor.

Overview of approach

The Silicon-PDMS process is described in the figure below. Process parameters such as Young’s Modulus, adhesion, and coefficient of friction are currently being characterized.


View videos of resistor kicks for jumping robots

Relevant publications

Gerratt, A.P., Penskiy, I., Bergbreiter, S. “PDMS and Silicon Micromechanisms in a Monolithic Process,” Hilton Head 2010, Hilton Head, SC, June 6-10, 2010.

Gerratt, A.P., Penskiy, I., Bergbreiter, S. “Integrated Silicon-PDMS Process for Microrobot Mechanisms,” ICRA 2010, Anchorage, AK, May 3-7, 2010.

Gerratt, A.P., Penskiy, I., Bergbreiter, S. “High Power Micromechanical Thrusters with Embedded Elastomer,” PowerMEMS 2009, Washington, DC, Dec 1-4, 2009.


Dr. Sarah Bergbreiter
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Institute for Systems Research
2170 Martin Hall
University of Maryland
College Park, MD-20742
Phone: 301-405-6506


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