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Tiny Gecko-Inspired Robots Carry Loads Over 100 Times Their Weight

Inventors at Stanford University have created a handful of tiny robots that can carry objects many times their weight, like robotic ants. One bot carries a kilogram (2.2 pound) weight, over 100 times heavier than itself, as it inches up a wall. Another small robot (called "μTug," or "microtug") about the same size can drag objects 2,000 times heavier, such as the full coffee mug shown in the video — an engineer in the lab compared it to a human dragging a blue whale around. One bot is so small that Elliot Hawkes, its creator, had to assemble it with tweezers under a microscope.

These feats of strength are made possible by mimicking nature — gecko feet, to be specific. The robots use a material covered in tiny rubber spikes, much like the microscopic "setae" on gecko toes, to stick themselves firmly to the surface they're on. This gives them a solid grip from which they can then winch in the object they're hauling. When it's time to move, they unstick their "foot" and scoot forward.

A robot bringing your coffee from the far side of the desk or carrying a paper clip up from the ground isn't the goal, though. A larger version could, for example, drag building materials or deliveries up the side of a building, or tug heavy goods around a warehouse. The robots will be presented next month at Seattle's International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

via New Scientist

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