Although they may be tiny, ants can teach us a lot about strength and teamwork. The little members of the Formicidae family can lift 100 times their own body weight, and can work in tandem to develop high-powered insect chains to tug relatively massive objects—and that’s all without the use of Pym particles. Now, researchers at Stanford’s Biomemetics and Dextrous Manipulation Laboratory have taken a few pages out of the eusocial insect playbook, and developed micro machines that can pull over 2,000 times their own weight.
Hank would be so proud.
According to the above video, “a team of 6 super strong microTug microrobots” weighing 100 grams in total manages to pull what appears to be a Chevy Volt, a vehicle that weighs 3,900 pounds (or 1,800 kilograms) — plus the lead researcher who’s in the driver’s seat. The researchers found that the best way to accomplish this feat and have the microbots work as a team was to use “a very long, very slow, but very steady winching gait,” like a strong man slowing pulling a train. On top of that, the microbots also use a super powerful adhesive inspired by gecko toes to stick to the ground, so it sounds like there was plenty of animal inspiration involved with the project (which is to be expected from a biomemetics lab).
The video doesn’t mention any specific real-world applications for the microTug microbots (aside from maybe providing one of the slowest valet services of all time), but they could be used for everything from transporting heavy machinery here on Earth, to swarming over large swathes of terrain on other planets for exploration. Imagine these little guys on Mars where there’s roughly 62% less gravity—that would be some serious tuggin’.
What do you think about this team of ant-inspired micro machines? Are they the future of small-scale robotics? Will they appear as super slow getaway vehicles in Ant-Man and the Wasp?! Let us know in the comments section below!
Images: BMDL Stanford