Scientists use dead spiders to create robotic claws


A distinctive feature of their anatomy, spiders have a hydraulic system in their body that allows them to control their limbs.

A team of mechanical engineers from Rice University in the United States says it’s possible to harness this system and control the movements of dead spiders, using their bodies to create mechanical pincers.

“Necrobotic” spiders used as mechanical pincers

From a mechanical point of view, a spider’s body functions much like a soft robot. Unlike most animals, which use muscles to move their limbs, spiders use a different system based on hydraulic principles. They have a chamber dedicated to this function, called the prosoma, located near the head and capable of regulating blood pressure throughout the body and stretching its limbs when it rises.

spider graphic

Source: Preston Innovation Laboratory/Rice University

Scientists on this project, who call their current area of ​​research “necrobotics,” use a needle to probe the prosome chamber of a previously euthanized spider. Next, they seal the contact point with an insulating adhesive, and then use a syringe to administer the necessary air pressure.

Through a Video Testing of the developed system showed that these “necrobotic” tweezers are able to lift more than 130% of their own weight.

During laboratory tests, this system was subjected to a thousand opening and closing cycles to check how well it supports his limbs and was found to be quite sturdy. “Starting to see some wear as we approach 1000 cycles”, said Daniel Preston, rice researcher and professor involved in this project. “We think it’s related to joint dehydration issues. We believe we can overcome that by applying polymer coatings.”he added.

The proposed use for this development is mainly focused on manipulating other objects. “There’s a lot of pick-and-place tasks that we could look at, repetitive tasks like sorting or moving objects at these small scales, and maybe even things like assembling microelectronics.”said Preston. Faye Yap, senior researcher, complemented the idea, adding that “another application might be to implement it to capture smaller insects in the wild, since it is camouflaged by nature.”

A report on other aspects of this study was recently published in a publication by Advanced Science.

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