Preston’s lab specializes in soft robotics. It is characterized by its use of unusual components. For his most recent experience, the team designed robots from spider corpses. The objective is to make them capable of grasping objects, such as pliers. The results were published in the journal AdvancedScience.
Engineer Daniel Preston of Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering participated in the experiment. He explained that the lifeless spider constituted the perfect architecture for small-scale grippers.
The Mechanism Behind Spiders’ Leg Mobility Is Fascinating
According to Faye Yap, a graduate student at Rice University and leader of the experiment, this research would have started with a simple curiosity. The discovery of a dead spider, while moving objects in the laboratory, would have aroused their attention. The team wanted to know why the spiders cower after they die.
In fact, spiders extend their legs increasing blood pressure through the internal valves of the hydraulic chamber or prosoma. They have flexor muscles, allowing them to curl up. By losing their lives, the spiders can no longer pressurize their bodies. That’s why they turn in on themselves when they die. It is this mechanism that the researchers would like to exploit.
Once the team understood this mechanism, designing these necrobots was easy. They placed a needle in the prosoma of a wolf spider. Then, using a portable syringe, they blew air into the other end of the needle. This allowed the Necrobot to extend its legs instantly. A video showing the experiment is available on YouTube.
Necrobots could be used in microelectronics
According ScienceDaily, the use of necrobots could extend to many useful functions. Their small size and their agility would allow them, for example, to sort or move objects on a very small scale. They might even be able to do the assembly of the microelectronics. Yap added that they could be used for capture small insectswhich camouflage themselves naturally.
These Necrobots are also resilient. They can undergo 1,000 opening and closing cycles before they are no longer usable. They are able to lift up to more than 150% of their body weight. According to Preston, this technology is biodegradable, which makes it more environmentally friendly, compared to non-organic robots. She would not introduce “a great stream of waste”.
However, this “post-mortem puppetry” displeased arachnophobes on the internet. The team still wanted to reassure Internet users. For experts in necrobotics, this technology would be an important step in the domain of soft robots.