Engineers Develop World’s Smallest Remote-Controlled Walking Robot

Northwestern University Smallest Remote-Controlled Walking Robot
A team of engineers at Northwestern University have developed the world’s smallest remote-controlled walking robot and it looks like a microscopic crab. Measuring just 0.5mm wide, these tiny robots can not only walk, but also bend, twist, crawl, turn and even jump. The goal is to eventually manufacture micro-sized robots that can perform practical tasks inside tightly confined spaces.

You won’t find any complex hardware, hydraulics or electricity powering this robot, but just the elastic resilience of its body. How so? Its made from a shape-memory alloy material that transforms to its “remembered” shape when heated. To accomplish this, the team used a scanned laser beam to rapidly heat the robot at different targeted locations across its body, while a thin coating of glass elastically returns that corresponding part of structure to its deformed shape when cooled. As it changes from one phase to another, movement is created. Believe it or not, this 3D-printed Millennium Falcon is even smaller.


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Our technology enables a variety of controlled motion modalities and can walk with an average speed of half its body length per second. This is very challenging to achieve at such small scales for terrestrial robots,” said Yonggang Huang, who led the theoretical work.

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