Mechanical engineers at Rice University have found a way to turn dead spiders into “necrobotic” grippers.
It’s quite a development in the field of soft robotics, which is made from nontraditional, soft materials. And flesh, even from spiders, is pretty soft.
“When they die, they lose the ability to actively pressurize their bodies,” said Faye Yap, the study’s lead author, in a press release. “That’s why they curl up.”
This is believed to make their corpses have the “perfect architecture” for changing into terrifying little grabbers.
The engineers stuck a needle into the hydraulic chamber of a wolf spider’s corpse, closed it off with superglue, and used the needle to deliver air into the chamber, granting control over the legs.
They were able to get these necrobots to lift 130 percent of their body weight. Thy proved to be resilient and held up even after 1,000 cycles, despite some wear and tear.
“This area of soft robotics is a lot of fun because we get to use previously untapped types of actuation and materials,” said Daniel Preston, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University, in the release. “The spider falls into this line of inquiry. It’s something that hasn’t been used before but has a lot of potential.”
“Despite looking like it might have come back to life, we’re certain that it’s inanimate, and we’re using it in this case strictly as a material derived from a once-living spider,” Preston said. “It’s providing us with something really useful.”