In spite of studying physics for a few semesters I had not heard of the thermal creep effect. Thanks!
Light-propelled nanocardboard robots laden with sensors, flitting in the Martian atmosphere, could one day help us better understand the Red Planet. Wait, nanocardboard, you ask? Yup. In this instance, this novel material is made of aluminum oxide tubes arranged in an alternating basket-weave pattern to form a hollow plate …
They weigh a third of a milligram each, but can carry up to ten times their weight. So the payload would be more than a third of a milligram.
Also bear in mind, as usual, this is lab experiment / prototype stuff, not final production. The first transistor was pretty crap compared to what came after.
weighs 35mg today. You don't need anything _THAT_ complex, by the way. And for thermal considerations, you could mount it to the 'cold side' and only burst it. average power in nanowatts, let's say, with 10's of watt bursts and a very very very tiny duty cycle, powered by a supercap and a solar charger. Also need power for sensors, too, so you factor all that in.
_NOT_ impossible. Just difficult.
"Also bear in mind, as usual, this is lab experiment / prototype stuff, not final production. "
And even if it never passes beyond a lab experiment, it's one of the amazing and mysterious things that gets kids interested and curious. I could even see it as one of those executive toys on the desk with an airtight perspex box with many of these things floating around inside. Remember the craze for Crookes' radiometers?
using a super-capacitor, some kind of solar charger, etc. you could set up a "burst broadcaster" to transmit data [as long as it isn't too complicated]. Repeat it a whole lot and allow for unreliable reception and you can collect data.
To receive commands, you could cycle your receiver to turn on at periodic intervals with randomization, and listen for a broadcasted signal during the 'on' time. Listen long enough, and repeat the signal often enough (or make it continuous) and you can command the things, although somewhat unreliably.
Just a thought. Make it a 'swarm' and just keep using them until you run out of bots [design lifetime of the system].
Actually... this tech kinda reminds me of BALLOONS...
I remember reading that UC Berkeley and Russian researchers have both come up with robot cockroaches, maybe swarms of those could be developed to explore Mars. Use a PV carapace to extend their range and for more remote exploration drop them by helicopter.
Let's face it, everywhere man goes he takes rats and 'roaches with him.
This is a beautiful piece of engineering but what constitutes indications of life?
"The Equations of Life" by astrobiologist Charles Cockell (Atlantic Books 2018) goes into this in detail, and it would appear that the alternative signs are relatively closely constrained. However a potential fly in the ointment (no pun intended) is that the same signs can be present and not indicate the presence of life. So there's a limited range of things to be looked for, but if found they may not be significant.
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