“Crab” is the smallest remote-controlled walking robot ever built

(ORDO NEWS) — Is your tiny robot really that small if it’s bigger than the width of a coin? A team of scientists has created the world’s smallest remote-controlled walking robot, measuring just half a millimeter (less than a fiftieth of an inch) wide.

The extremely tiny robots have a range of potential uses, from helping with surgical procedures to repairing equipment in places where a wrench can’t fit. The smaller they become, the more scenarios they can be used.

Although this bot is not yet ready to go out into the world and do repairs, it is really impressive.

It looks and moves like a miniature pikito crab, whose shape the researchers say was chosen on a “creative whim”. In fact, the techniques they have developed can be used to create tiny robots of almost any shape desired.

Crab is the smallest remote controlled walking robot ever built 2
The robot is controlled by lasers

“Our technology allows for various modes of controlled movement and can walk at an average speed of half the length of the body per second,” says Yungang Huang, a mechanical engineer. , from Northwestern University in Illinois.

“Achieving this on such a small scale for ground-based robots is very difficult.”

The technology on which the robot is based was originally developed eight years ago. and not unlike a pop-up book: the parts of the robot are attached to a stretched rubber backing, and when the material relaxes, the device takes on its shape.

By carefully calibrating the base parts, the shape of the robot can be precisely controlled. A similar approach is used with the moving parts of the robot, which are made of shape memory alloy. These materials switch between two different shapes depending on whether they are heated or not.

The lasers, acting as a remote control, are used to heat certain parts of the robot – as these parts change into different shapes, they propel the crab forward. There is no need for a power supply or motor, and the thin layer of glass ensures that the components return to their original shape as they cool.

“Because these structures are so tiny, the cooling rate is very high. quickly,” says materials scientist John Rogers of Northwestern University. “In fact, shrinking these robots allows them to run faster.”

By aiming lasers at different parts of the robot crab, researchers can set the direction of movement. By adjusting the frequency of the laser scan, you can also change the speed of the robot.

It’s the next step in a trend that sees robots getting smaller and smaller over time, whether it’s to make them more resilient, to target drugs to treat diseases, or to create larger modular structures from smaller parts.

The researchers say their new process has great potential: they could get robots to turn and jump using the same tricks, for example. As long as the robot is within line of sight of the laser, it can be controlled remotely.

“Robotics is an exciting area of ​​research, and the development of microrobots is an interesting topic for academic research. ‘, says Rogers.

“You can think of microrobots as agents for repairing or assembling small structures or machines in industry, or as assistants to a surgeon to clear clogged arteries, stop internal bleeding, or remove cancerous tumors. and all this using minimally invasive procedures.”

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