Tiny Robots With Gekko Feet

Robots + bio-inspired materials = awesomeness!

How can we go wrong with cool little robots and bio-inspired materials? And the lucky devils a the Stanford Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab get to do just that.

This month they demoed the photogenic and an amazing robots that can pull 100 times their own weight. The secret is directionally adhesive (Mechanical Anisotropic Adhesion) foot pads, a la geckos’ feet. Cool! MicroTugBot!

In case this isn’t sufficient proof-of-awesomeness, an inchworm variant can climb straight up glass!! (Let’s see you do that, puny human!)

As in so many things, the magic is pretty simple at base.  The adhesive pads, modeled on  geckos’ feet, have a carefully arranged geometry of one way hairs.  In one direction, the sticky pad is pulled down to make maximum contact.  In the other direction, the hairs lift the pad, reducing the contact.  It’s just that simple!  (Actually, the design and fabrication has to be precise, and just right for the given robot to be built. See the papers for details.)


  1. Christensen, David L., Elliot W. Hawkes, Srinivasan A. Suresh, Karen Ladenheim, and Mark R. Cutkosky, μTugs: Enabling Microrobots to Deliver Macro Forces with Controllable Adhesives, in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). 2015.
  2. Hawkes, Elliot W., David L. Christensen, and Mark R. Cutkosky, Vertical Dry Adhesive Climbing with a 100x bodyweight payoad, in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). 2015.


Robot Wednesday


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