May 31, 2022

Teeny Tiny Robo-Crabs Are Coming!

The eggheads at Northwestern University have created a crab-like robot so small that a whole colony of them could fit on a United States penny.

Researchers and engineers at the academic institution in Evanston, Illinois took inspiration from the “pop-up” mechanism in children’s books to design and create a tiny bot – resembling the Atlantic rock crab or “peekytoe crab” – no wider than half a millimetre. This is dwarfed by your garden variety flea, which measures at roughly less than five millimetres when fully grown.

The remote-controlled machine is made even more remarkable by the fact that it can crawl, twist, walk, turn and jump without using any complex hardware, hydraulics, or electricity – it is made with a shape-memory alloy that allows it to retain its shape once heated with a laser, plus its elastic resilience allows it to move in the desired direction with each deformation and formation repetition.

Professor John Rogers, the project’s lead, says that the rate of cooling is “very fast”, so minimising the robot’s size allows for faster movement.

“You might imagine micro-robots as agents to repair or assemble small structures or machines in industry, or as surgical assistants to clear clogged arteries, to stop internal bleeding or to eliminate cancerous tumours – all in minimally invasive procedures,” claims Rogers.

The technology is still in its early stages, but its potential is incredible.

Image Credit: Source