If a butterfly can flap its wings on one side of the world and trigger a tsunami on the other side, certainly a robotic butterfly flapping its wings in Boulder will trigger something, right?

Well, it may not be worldwide yet, but the robotic butterfly prototype is here, thanks to a team of designers and engineers at CU Boulder’s ATLAS Institute. Led by graduate student Purnendu, the team used electrohydraulics to develop paper-thin butterflies, flowers and origami cranes that move by themselves.

Unlike the stiff, metal contraptions most of us imagine when we think of robots, these “Electriflow” designs stem from the field of soft robotics. Electrohydraulic actuators cause movement by sending electrostatic pulses through small oil-filled pockets to push the fluid around. The result is a soft, flexible butterfly that can move its wings at a rate of 25 flaps per second.

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