In robotics, it's not always the size that counts. Stanford University has just illustrated this with the presentation of its "MicroTug", robotic insects with excessive force.
Each micro robot weighs only 12 grams and the most powerful is capable of towing loads 2000 times heavier than its own weight. On a human scale, that would be like being able to drag a blue whale, says David Christensen, one of the engineers who worked on the program.
Another robot weighing only 9 grams has been shown to be able to climb a vertical wall by lifting objects weighing more than one kilogram. Even the smallest of these robots (20 milligrams) assembled under the microscope was able to pull objects weighing 25 times its weight.
It is by borrowing certain characteristics of the animal domain that these robots were able to achieve these exploits, and especially once again on the side of the Gecko. By covering the robot legs with hairs identical to those located under the fingers of the little lizard, they can increase their contact surface and therefore their resistance by using the Van der Waals principle (the force of attraction intermolecular).
The robots will be presented in more detail at the International Conferance on Robotics and Automation next month. The applications of these techniques in the industrial field could be substantial in the not-so-distant future.