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Tiny robots that can pull objects up to 2,000 times their own weight have been developed at Stanford University

30 Apr 2015

These robots have been built by mechanical engineers at Stanford University in California. The team at Stanford, including PhD students David Christensen and Elliot Hawkes, demonstrated a 9g robot that can carry more than 1kg vertically up glass. This is equivalent to a human climbing a skyscraper while carrying an elephant. Another one - that weighs just 20mg but can carry 500mg, was so tiny it had to be built under a microscope, using tweezers to put the parts together.

They are called “MicroTugs”, and for their design they have borrowed techniques from nature, inspirated in geckos and ants in their design. The secret to the robots' strength lies in their sticky feet - which is copied from geckos, some of nature's most adept climbers. Geckos have small hairs on their feet to help them scurry across ceilings.

MicroTugs could be used in emergencies or on construction sites in the future, scaling the techonology up to larger bots with more industrial parts. But more related to the Swarm-Organ Project, the next step in the MicroTugs development would be about looking at ways to make several of them work together as a team, in a self-organized manner. 

The MicroTug robots will be on show at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation taking place in Seattle in May. More information can be found at http://bdml.stanford.edu/Main/MicroTugs.

(Source images: Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab, Stanford University)

µTug: Micro robot pulls 2000 times its weight on glass