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'Necrobotic' spiders made by reanimating dead spiders into robots

Researchers from Rice University have pioneered a new field of research, necrobotics, using a dead spider as a mechanical gripper.

Published Jul 26, 2022 5:52 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Jul 26 2022 5:57 AM CDT

A study on the spiders titled "Necrobotics: Biotic Materials as Ready‐to‐Use Actuators" has been published in the journal Advanced Science.

Researchers from Rice University have repurposed the carcasses of deceased wolf spiders to serve as mechanical grippers, taking the first step in a novel research field dubbed "necrobotics" by the researchers. The team's lab specializes in soft robotics, a subfield of robotics that utilizes nontraditional materials to achieve more flexibility and unique functions unattainable with traditional plastics, metals, and electronics.

"We use all kinds of interesting new materials like hydrogels and elastomers that can be actuated by things like chemical reactions, pneumatics and light. We even have some recent work on textiles and wearables," said Daniel Preston of Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering.

Spiders move their limbs using hydraulics, unlike humans or other mammals, which contract and relax opposing muscles to generate motion. Spiders can contract a chamber near their heads, sending blood into their legs and forcing them to extend. When the pressure from the chamber is relieved, their legs curl up again.

By inserting a needle into a spider's body and gluing it in place to seal any gaps, the spider can be blown up with air to open and close its legs in unison. The system allowed the "necrobotic gripper" to lift more than 130% of its body weight and occasionally significantly more.

"This area of soft robotics is a lot of fun because we get to use previously untapped types of actuation and materials. The spider falls into this line of inquiry. It's something that hasn't been used before but has a lot of potential," said Preston.

You can read more from the study here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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