The operation of autonomous, liquid-fueled microboats driven by surface tension effects has been demonstrated, including the possibility of controlled steering. Two types of microboat with surface area of 6 × 11 mm2 have been fabricated by a bulk micromachining process and powered by 0.5μl of isopropanol on top of a pool of water. The first microboat design uses a cellulose film to store liquid-fuel and has been able to operate for 10 minutes with a maximum cruising velocity of 7.5cm/sec. The second microboat design uses a direct fueling system by adding a fuel droplet directly and has been able to cruise for about 30 seconds with a maximum velocity of 15cm/sec. A first-order theoretical model was developed that captures the discharging trend of the liquid-fuel and the surface tension effects. Numerical techniques were employed to find out the velocity profile of the microboat and compared with experimental results. Moreover, an onboard steerer has been added and successfully restrained the motion of the microboat into a desired path. When integrated with other microsystems, microboats could be used for future applications such as marine life observations or military surveillance/reconnaissance missions.

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