The World’s Smallest, Remote-Controlled Walking Robot

Researchers at Northwestern University created a crab-shaped robot that is smaller than a flea, measuring just half a millimeter—making it the smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot. The robot can bend, twist, crawl and leap, all without relying on complex hardware. Rather, the micro-robot’s movement utilizes an alloy that can “remember” shape when heated. Researchers point a laser beam at the robot to heat up several targeted spots and when it cools, a thin layer of glass restores the robot’s shape. This shapeshifting enables locomotion. Pointing the laser from left to right, for instance, causes the robot to move from right to left. To design the crab, scientists looked to children’s pop-up books, fabricating precursors on 2D geometries that are bonded to slightly stretched rubber substrates that cause the crab to pop into a defined form. This assembly and mobility is highly versatile, allowing the scientists to craft a multitude of shapes which could become critical agents in minimally invasive medical procedures. Learn more about it at SciTechDaily.

Image courtesy of Northwestern University