Dead spiders turned into robotic claws

Why build a robot from scratch when you can turn a dead animal into one? That’s probably what a team of researchers at Rice University thought, turning dead spiders into robotic claws.

The scientists called the creations “necrobots.” They believe they can develop cheap, biodegradable alternatives to current robotic systems.

Spiders were chosen for the experiment because they have a single flexor muscle in their legs that moves them inwards. Several muscle groups, such as the biceps and triceps, are used to move the upper limbs of humans, for example.

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These arachnids use a hydraulic system. A chamber inside the spider’s body, called the prosoma or cephalothorax, draws fluid to close the animal’s leg. By pumping fluid, the leg opens. Separate valves allow each limb to be controlled independently of the others. When spiders die, their legs are squeezed because there is no pressure in the system.

A simple mechanism

Researchers have discovered that they can artificially control this system by inserting a syringe needle into the prosoma of a dead spider. By drawing air in and out of this chamber, the animal’s legs open and close, functioning like a claw.

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Spiders can lift weights 130% greater than their own weight. Such a necrobot can endure 1,000 closing/opening cycles before the joints degrade.

The research team notes that humans have always used the remains of dead animals – whether it was hides, tusks, horns or bones – for clothing or tools. So turning a dead spider into a robot doesn’t seem so unusual.

These “claws” could be used in the future in small electronic devices.

You can see how the system works in the video below:

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