It is smaller than a flea, shaped like a crab, and can be remote controlled. Its creators believe it could be used in minimally invasive surgeries or to help repair tiny devices. We are talking of the smallest robot in the world and its promising future.
And article published in the journal Science Robotics details the surprising work of a team of researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Each robotic specimen is about a millimeter wide, which makes it very difficult to spot with the naked eye, but gives you advantages.
Smaller than a flea and shaped like a crab
Robotics is a field of research in constant development, but some advances, however small they may seem, can take a long time. The team of researchers that created the world’s smallest robot it took a year and a half to develop and manufacture these tiny metal machines.
Yes, metallic, because they are made of a malleable alloy with shape memory. The process starts with a small flat metal fragment like a leaf, which is molded to take the shape of a crab or other animals such as crickets and crabs.
But the most interesting thing about these devices is not their curious shape, but how they work. As it is such small dimensions, there is no room for complex systems, such as hydraulics. What alternative to use then? The answer lies in the properties of this malleable alloy.
these alloys can change shape when heat is applied. So the robotic crab stands on its legs when it’s cold, but depending on where heat is applied, it can walk, turn and even jump.
A laser is a convenient way to apply heat because it allows light to be focused into a very small spot. This spot can be scanned to illuminate different parts of the robot’s body in a time sequence, according to John A. Rogers, one of the study’s authors.
Although this type of robot is still in an early stage of development, researchers do not hesitate to imagine its potential uses. As we mentioned above, they believe they could be used to perform minimally invasive surgeries or assist in the assembly and repair of small-scale machines.
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