Don’t let their diminutive size fool you. The microrobots developed by the engineers at the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab at Stanford University might look like toys, but thanks to the power of biomimicry, the imitation of nature, they can move objects weighing more than 2,000 times their own weight when they work together.
In the video above, the researchers show a team of six MicroTug robots weighing just 3.5 ounces pulling a car weighing almost two tons, about 3,900 pounds. To put things into perspective, this is like having six humans move something as heavy as the Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty, researcher David Christensen told the New York Times. Christensen is a graduate student and one of the authors of the research paper on the MicroTug robots. In the video below, you can see MicroTugs pulling 2,000 times their own weight on a glass surface:
There are two main elements taken from nature that allow these tiny robots to punch above their weight, both coming from different species. The first is precise teamwork inspired by ant colonies and their ability to coordinate in a way that allows them to move objects and creatures that are much heavier than they are. They do this by grabbing on to each other, creating a kind of living rope, and using three of their six legs simultaneously. The video below provides a good example of this:
The second thing necessary for the robots to be able to pull so much weight is a gecko-inspired adhesive surface on their bottom side. It helps them stick to the floor as they pull. You can see gecko toes in action in the video below: