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

Arachnophobes look away now; Engineers have found a way to turn dead spiders into mechanical grasping robots out of your wildest dreams.

Researchers at Rice University in Texas pumped wolf spiders with air to make their legs spin and grip around objects.

They discovered that arachnids were able to lift 130 percent of their body weight, and could manipulate circuit boards.

It is hoped that the delicate gripper could be used in microelectronics, or that its natural camouflage could be helpful in capturing small insects for study.

Daniel Preston, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said: ‘It just so happens that the spider, after death, is the perfect architecture for small-scale, naturally acquired grippers.

‘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 Corpses Of Dead Spiders Into Necrobotic Grips.  Pictured Is A Gripper Being Used To Lift The Jumper And Break The Circuit To Turn Off The Led.  The Team Hopes The Gripper Could Be Useful In Microelectronics.

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

Mechanical Engineers At Rice University Were Inspired After Encountering Spinning Spiders Spinning Things In Their Laboratory.  Lead Author Faye Yap (Pictured) Wanted To Know Why Arachnids' Legs Turn Inward After They Die.

Mechanical Engineers At Rice University Were Inspired After Encountering Spinning Spiders Spinning Things In Their Laboratory.  Lead Author Faye Yap (Pictured) Wanted To Know Why Arachnids' Legs Turn Inward After They Die.

Mechanical engineers at Rice University were inspired after encountering spinning spiders spinning things in their laboratory. Lead author Faye Yap (pictured) wanted to know why arachnids’ legs turn inward after they die.

How does the gripper work?

The engineers first inserted a needle into the prosoma of a dead spider and secured it with superglue.

The other end of the needle was connected to a lab test rig or handheld syringe, which delivered a minute of air to the legs.

Pressure causes them to split, and when the pressure is released the legs wrap around an object.

Mechanical engineers at the Houston-based institute were inspired after encountering spindly spiders moving objects around in their laboratory.

Lead author Faye Yap wanted to know why spiders’ legs turn inward after they die.

she said: ‘Spiders don’t have opposing muscle pairs, like biceps and triceps in humans

‘They only have flexor muscles, which allow their legs to bend, and they extend them outwards by hydraulic pressure.’

Internal valves, or prosoma, in spiders’ hydraulic chambers send blood to their limbs and force them to expand, and then contract when that pressure drops.

Yap added: ‘When they die, they lose the ability to actively exert pressure on their bodies. So they bow down.

‘At the time, we were thinking, ‘Oh, this is very interesting’, we wanted to find a way to exploit this mechanism.’

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

The Engineers First Tapped A Needle Into The Spider'S Prosoma Chamber, Attaching It To A Dab Of Superglue.  The Other End Of The Needle Was Connected To One Of The Lab'S Test Rigs Or A Handheld Syringe, Which Almost Instantly Delivered A Minute Of Air To Activate The Legs.

The Engineers First Tapped A Needle Into The Spider'S Prosoma Chamber, Attaching It To A Dab Of Superglue.  The Other End Of The Needle Was Connected To One Of The Lab'S Test Rigs Or A Handheld Syringe, Which Almost Instantly Delivered A Minute Of Air To Activate The Legs.

The engineers first tapped a needle into the spider’s prosoma chamber, attaching it to a dab of superglue. The other end of the needle was connected to one of the lab’s test rigs or a handheld syringe, which almost instantly delivered a minute of air to activate the legs.

Left: Scanning Electron Microscope Image Of The Articular Membrane Of The Spider Patellofemoral Joint, Which Has Inspired The Design Of Many Soft Flexible Joints.  Right: A Hypodermic Needle Is Inserted Into The Prosoma Of A Spider And Sealed With Glue.

Left: Scanning Electron Microscope Image Of The Articular Membrane Of The Spider Patellofemoral Joint, Which Has Inspired The Design Of Many Soft Flexible Joints.  Right: A Hypodermic Needle Is Inserted Into The Prosoma Of A Spider And Sealed With Glue.

Left: Scanning electron microscope image of the articular membrane of the spider patellofemoral joint, which has inspired the design of many soft flexible joints. Right: A hypodermic needle is inserted into the prosoma of a spider and sealed with glue.

In a paper published yesterday Advanced Sciencethe team describes how they created the ‘Necrobot’.

They first tapped into the prosoma chamber with a needle, attaching it to a dab of superglue.

The other end of the needle was connected to one of the lab’s test rigs or a handheld syringe, which almost instantly delivered a minute of air to activate the legs.

Engineers forced grippers to manipulate circuit boards, move objects, and even pick up another spider.

They were also found to be quite robust, as they could go through 1,000 open-close cycles before experiencing any breakage.

Preston said: ‘We think it has to do with joint dehydration issues. We think we can overcome this by applying polymeric coatings.’

Daniel Preston (Left) And Faye Yap (Right) Hope Their Spider Catcher Will Open The Door To A New Field Of Robotics They Call 'Necrobotics', Which Will Have Real-World Applications.

Daniel Preston (Left) And Faye Yap (Right) Hope Their Spider Catcher Will Open The Door To A New Field Of Robotics They Call 'Necrobotics', Which Will Have Real-World Applications.

Daniel Preston (left) and Faye Yap (right) hope their spider catcher will open the door to a new field of robotics they call ‘necrobotics’, which will have real-world applications.

The team hopes their spider catcher will open the door to a new field of robotics they call ‘necrobotics’, which will have real-world applications.

Preston said: ‘There are many selective and spatial tasks that we can consider, repetitive tasks such as sorting or moving these small-scale objects, and maybe even things like the assembly of microelectronics.’

Yap added: ‘Another application could be deploying it to capture small insects in nature, as it is naturally camouflaged.’

The spiders themselves are also biodegradable, so their necrobots do not introduce a large waste stream as is found with more traditional components and materials.

Future research will include looking at creating similar grippers with smaller spiders, which can carry loads greater than their body weight.

A tiny fish-shaped robot that swims around picking up microplastics could help clean up the oceans

Scientists have developed a fish-shaped robot that ‘arrows’ to quickly pick up microplastics.

The tiny machine ‘shakes’ its body and ‘flaps’ its tail fins to move through the water, and could be used to help clean the oceans of plastic pollution.

It’s only half an inch long, meaning it can reach into tiny cracks and crevices to collect bits of plastic that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Developed by a team at China’s Sichuan University, the robot has no power source, but moves thanks to flashes of near-infrared light.

Read more here