Robotic crab is the world's smallest bot

Micro-sized robots can do tasks in tightly confined spaces, including the human body.

June 8, 2022

2 Min Read

Micro-sized robots can do tasks in tightly confined spaces, including the human body.

A team of researchers from Northwestern University has created the smallest ever remote-controlled walking robot - a peekytoe crab that measures only half a millimeter wide. 

The bot, which has 10 legs, two of which end in mini clamps, is designed to do tasks in confined spaces. It could be used as a surgical assistant or factory hand when delicate inspection and maintenance tasks are required. 

The tiny bot has flexibility of movement to walk, bend, jump and twist in every direction, in a design the team says is based on elasticity and resilience, and specifically does not use hydraulics, electricity or hardware to operate.

Instead, the team used shape-memory alloys for the crab’s body, heating it at different angles with a laser to stimulate a change in shape and creating energy for it to move in the process – with the laser’s direction determining the bot’s direction of movement.

The team has also created miniature bots resembling inchworms, crickets and beetles. While their research remains in the initial phases, there is hope that their findings will bring the industry closer to commercialized microbots. The research is published in the journal Science Robotics.

Last year, the team created a microchip with wings - the smallest ever man-made flying structure.

“Robotics is an exciting field of research, and the development of microscale robots is a fun topic for academic exploration,” said professor John A. Rogers, who led the research team. “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 tumors — all in minimally invasive procedures.” 

Why make a peekytoe crab instead of another animal? The students felt "inspired and amused by the sideways crawling motions of crabs. It was a creative whim."

This article first appeared in sister publication IoT World Today

Keep up with the ever-evolving AI landscape
Unlock exclusive AI content by subscribing to our newsletter!!

You May Also Like