Engineers turn dead spiders into robotic arms

(ORDO NEWS) — With the help of pneumatics, the legs of dead spiders can move, grab and hold objects larger than their own weight, opening up a new direction of robotics – “necrobotics”.

Engineers from the American Rice University have demonstrated that the body of spiders retain the ability to respond to changes in internal pressure.

This allows them to be used as controlled grippers for manipulating small objects, and some improvements will make them even more efficient and durable.

Perhaps such an approach will form the basis of a completely new and unusual direction of “necrobotics”. This is described in an article published in the journal Advanced Science .

Daniel Preston’s team specializes in developing robotic systems from “non-traditional” components such as textiles, elastomers and hydrogels, pneumatic and even chemical actuators.

“Spiders also fall into this category,” said Professor Preston. “They have also not been used yet, but they have good potential.”

Indeed, unlike vertebrates, which use muscles to move, arachnids use hydraulics to do so. In the cephalothorax of these animals is a chamber filled with fluid.

The pressure from it is transmitted through a system of tubes to the legs, causing them to straighten – or automatically compress when the pressure drops. This makes the spiders quite simple yet effective hydraulic gripping systems.

Engineers turn dead spiders into robotic arms 2
Above is a graphic description of the work. Below is a demonstration of the system in action: the “spider grip” removes the part from the electrical circuit, and the LED goes out

o demonstrate the original approach, the engineers experimented with dead Lycosidae spiders of various sizes. A thin hollow needle was inserted into their cephalothorax and fixed with glue, then a syringe was connected to the needle.

As a result, when inflated with air, the legs of the spider moved apart, and when it was sucked out with a syringe, they contracted.

Experiments have shown that the same remains work for more than a thousand cycles, and only then the tissues and joints begin to degrade significantly.

Such a system of pneumatics and a dead spider exoskeleton is capable of holding a load of 130 percent of its own weight.

However, small spiders have higher numbers, and scientists believe that even more impressive carrying capacity can be achieved by using the remains of the tiniest species.

In addition, they associate degradation after 1000 cycles with dehydration – loss of moisture, and this period can be extended using a protective polymer coating.

Perhaps the engineers will even be able to learn how to control each leg individually, as the spiders themselves do.

The authors are so confident in the prospects of the new approach that they have already given it a special name – “necrobotics” (necrobotic). “There are a lot of grab-lift-carry tasks, repetitive manipulations of objects on a small scale,” explains Prof. Preston. – It can even be an assembly of microelectronics.

Plus, the spiders are biodegradable, so they won’t introduce additional pollution, which is a problem with more traditional components.”

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