Tiny Ant-Man Robots Can Pull 2,000 Times Their Own Body Weight

Monday, 27 April 2015 - 4:02PM
Science of Sci-Fi
Robotics
Monday, 27 April 2015 - 4:02PM
Tiny Ant-Man Robots Can Pull 2,000 Times Their Own Body Weight
In the upcoming Marvel film Ant-Man, Scott Lang gains his superstrength by shrinking, thereby becoming proportionally more powerful. Now, Stanford engineers have similarly proven that strong things come in small packages, as they have designed miniature robots called Microtugs that can carry loads many orders of magnitude larger than themselves. The most extreme feat of strength is carried out by a bot that weighs only 12 grams, but can pull up to 2,000 times its own "body" weight.

This feat, performed by the ground robot called μTug, is "the same as you pulling around a blue whale," Stanford engineer David Christensen told New Scientist.

There are also climbing versions of the bot that can perform equally impressive tasks, although since they also have to overcome gravity, they can pull up to 100 times their own weight:



As can be seen in the above video, the bot not only acts like Ant-Man, it takes inspiration from biology for its aesthetic and movement as well. It inches along like a mechanical worm, and has adhesives on its "feet" in a concept that, according to the researchers, was taken directly from geckos. The adhesives are covered in rubber spikes which, when pressure from the wall is applied, bend and increase their surface area, which makes them stickier. Then, when the bot straightens the spikes to pick up its foot, the adhesives easily come loose.

The engineers imagine that this design could someday be used for larger robots, in which case the applications would be myriad. The robots could be used to haul material on construction sites, not to mention the potential for emergency situations, such as bringing a rope ladder up the side of a burning building.
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