Scientists turn dead spiders into ‘necrobots’ that can serve as mechanical grippers

Arachnophobes now look away; Engineers have found a way to turn dead spiders into mechanical gripping robots straight out of your nightmares.

Researchers at Rice University in Texas they pumped the corpses of wolf spiders with air so that their legs turned around and wrapped around objects.

They discovered that the arachnid invaders were able to lift 130 percent of their own body weight and could manipulate circuit boards to turn off LED lights.

Capture can perform approx. 1,000 open-close cycles before its joints begin to wear out, but engineers believe it will last longer with a polymer coating.

It is hoped that the thin instruments could be used in microelectronics or to study small insects.

Daniel Preston, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said: “It just so happens that the spider, after its death, is the perfect architecture for small, naturally occurring grips.

“It’s something that hasn’t been used before but has a lot of potential.”

Mechanical engineers at Rice University have found a way to turn the bodies of dead spiders into necrobot grippers. Pictured is the grip used to raise the jumper and break the circuit to turn off the LED. The team hopes the capture could be useful in microelectronics.

Mechanical engineers at Rice University were inspired when they came across curled-up spiders while moving objects around in their lab.  Lead author Fei Yap (pictured) wanted to find out why arachnids' legs bend inward after death.

Mechanical engineers at Rice University were inspired when they came across curled-up spiders while moving objects around in their lab. Lead author Fei Yap (pictured) wanted to find out why arachnids’ legs bend inward after death.

HOW DOES THE GRIPPER WORK?

First, engineers inserted a needle into the head of a dead spider and secured it with superglue.

The other end of the needle was connected to one of the test benches in the lab or to a hand held syringe that delivered a small amount of air to the legs.

The pressure caused them to turn around, and when the pressure stopped, the legs wrapped around the object.

Mechanical engineers at the Houston facility were inspired by encountering coiled spiders while moving objects around in their lab.

Lead author Fei Yap wanted to find out why the legs of spiders curl inward after death.

She said: “Spiders don’t have antagonistic pairs of muscles like the biceps and triceps in humans.

“They only have flexor muscles that allow their legs to bend inward, and they pull them outward with hydraulic pressure.”

Internal valves in a spider’s hydraulic chamber, or prosoma, direct blood to their limbs and cause them to stretch, and when that pressure is relieved, they contract.

Yap added, “When they die, they lose the ability to actively put pressure on their body. That’s why they curl.

“At the time, we were like, ‘Oh, this is very interesting,’ we wanted to find a way to use this mechanism.”

The valves allow the spider to control each leg individually. were used by researchers to move all legs at the same time.

First, the engineers penetrated the spider's head chamber with a needle, attaching it with a blob of superglue.  The other end of the needle was connected to one of the test benches in the lab, or to a hand-held syringe that delivered a tiny amount of air to activate the legs almost instantly.

First, the engineers penetrated the spider’s head chamber with a needle, attaching it with a blob of superglue. The other end of the needle was connected to one of the test benches in the lab, or to a hand-held syringe that delivered a tiny amount of air to activate the legs almost instantly.

Left: Scanning electron microscope image of the patellofemoral joint of a spider, which has been the inspiration for many soft, flexible joints.  Right: A hypodermic needle is inserted into the head of the spider and sealed with glue.

Left: Scanning electron microscope image of the patellofemoral joint of a spider, which has been the inspiration for many soft, flexible joints. Right: A hypodermic needle is inserted into the head of the spider and sealed with glue.

In an article published yesterday in cutting edge sciencethe team describes how they created the “necrobot”.

First, they tapped the prosoma chamber with a needle, attaching it with a drop of superglue.

The other end of the needle was connected to one of the test benches in the lab, or to a hand-held syringe that delivered a small amount of air to activate the legs almost instantly.

Engineers have made grippers manipulate circuit boards, move objects, and even lift another spider.

They also proved to be quite durable, as they could withstand 1,000 open-close cycles before experiencing any wear.

Preston said: “We think it has to do with joint dehydration issues. We think we can overcome this by applying polymer coatings.”

Daniel Preston (left) and Fei Yap (right) hope their spider capture will open the door to a new field of robotics they call

Daniel Preston (left) and Fei Yap (right) hope their spider capture will open the door to a new field of robotics they call “non-robotics” that will find applications in the real world.

The team hopes their spider capture will open the door to a new field of robotics they call “non-robotics” that will have applications in the real world.

Preston said: “There are a lot of tasks we could consider, repetitive tasks like sorting or moving objects on such a small scale, and maybe even things like microelectronics assembly.”

Yap added: “Another application could use it to trap small insects in nature because it is inherently camouflaged.”

The spiders themselves are also biodegradable, so their necrobots don’t generate as much waste as more traditional components and materials do.

Future research will include exploring the creation of similar grips with smaller spiders that can carry heavier loads compared to their body weight.

Tiny fish-shaped robot that ‘swims’ and collects microplastics could help clean up the oceans

Scientists have created a fish-shaped robot that quickly “swims” and collects microplastics.

The tiny machine wiggles its body and flaps its tail fins to propel itself through the water and could be used to clean up plastic pollution in the oceans.

It’s only half an inch long, which means it can get into tiny cracks and crevices to pick up bits of plastic that would otherwise be out of reach.

Developed by a team at Sichuan University in Chinathe robot has no power source, but is propelled by flashes of near-infrared light.

Read more here