Smallest walking robots in the world

Northwestern University has created a tiny crab-shaped robot . It is almost invisible, only half a millimeter wide, smaller than a chip. A remote-controlled walking robot so microscopic that it is the only one in the world. This is the initial phase of research, but this technology could be useful for creating small robots for practical work in tight places.

The little crab robot is without hydraulic or electric power, but is capable of making various moves thanks to the elasticity and resilience of its body. It is made of a shape memory alloy material . This means that when heated it changes into the remembered form. It is a laser beam that heats the robot. The researchers used the laser, not only because it activates the robot from a distance, but because it chooses its direction of travel.

Scientists used a particular technique to create such a small one. Flat and planar geometries were created, giving rise to precursors of walking crab structures. Then the precursors were glued to a rubber substrate with a slight tension. The moment the tension is released, a controlled deformation occurs which causes the crab to burst into 3D shapes. Here you can get robots of different shapes, just like that of the crab.


Robotics is an exciting field of research, and the development of micro-scale robots is a fun topic for academic exploration. You could imagine micro-robots as agents to repair or assemble small structures or machinery in industry, or as surgical assistants to clear clogged arteries, stop internal bleeding, or remove cancerous tumors – all in minimally invasive procedures.

Professor John Rogers, Northwestern University

  • The smallest remote-controlled walking robots in the world (

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