The lightest crawling robot ever developed weighs about as much as three grains of rice and earned its spot in the next Guinness Book of World Records.

Néstor O. Pérez-Arancibia at Washington State University was inspired by nature when he built Robeetle. The tiny machine is uniquely powered by the catalytic combustion of methanol and can climb slopes, navigate various surfaces, and haul objects up to 2.6 times its own weight. Robeetle weighs a mere 88 milligrams and was featured on the cover of Science Robotics.

Pérez-Arancibia, Flaherty Associate Professor in Engineering in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, hopes his robots can someday be used to solve tricky engineering problems by emulating talented creatures like squid or mice that can seamlessly squeeze themselves like liquid into tight places. Biological organisms, particularly insects, still surpass their robotic counterparts in almost every aspect, but he hopes to develop robots in the next decade that are significantly better at mimicking natural systems.

He’s also excited to bring on new students to his program who like to tinker and have a good imagination.

“I hope they come knock on my door,” he says.


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Video: The Robeetle at work  (Science News)