Thanks to the engineers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, the world’s smallest remote-controlled walking robot was just invented. According to their research published online in the journal Science Robotics, these crabs are about half a millimeter wide, which is unbelievably smaller than the thickness of a penny!
As reported first by CNN, these robotic crabs can balance on the side of a penny. According to the study’s co-author, John A. Rogers, who is also the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Material Science and Engineering – the team invented the minuscule metal creatures within a year and a half.
The engineering team was composed of students who came from different academic fields to employ both critical-and creative-thinking skills to create these robots that are similar to crabs as well as other small animals such as inchworms and crickets. Rogers said that some of the students were interested in the sideways motion of crabs, hence, they took it as an inspiration to design the crab robot. He added that these robots can twist, jump, and turn too!
The tiny robots were made of a malleable shape-memory alloy, which is strikingly a flat object like a piece of paper. Rogers told CNN that they also made a metallic object out of shape-memory alloy that can be deformed yet can return to its original shape after heat is applied to it.
The “deformed” state of the robot is when its arms and legs are bent, while the “original” shape is when the crab is flat. It is worth noting that the legs and arms of the robots have to be bent in order for them to stand. The crabs will stay standing on their legs and will move once it is heated.
Rogers noted that lasers are used to make the crabs move. Particularly, his team would use heat on certain joints of the robots for them to return to their original flat state. But if heat is constantly applied in a specific sequence, the crabs will start moving like how a person straightens and bend their legs when they walk. Hence, the team had to apply heat on different parts of the robot for it to create constant movement and since the crabs are tiny, they had to use laser for efficiency and accuracy.
However, the robots are still in their developmental phase, and it still limited for academic purposes. But Rogers said that the technology behind these robots holds great potential, such as performing minimally invasive surgeries or repairing damages in small machines. Rogers is also excited about the future of these robots. He has challenged his students to broaden the robot’s capabilities, such as equipping the crabs with the ability to take flight.
Source: This news is originally published by techtimes