No... please no...
If you really hate spiders, you might want to stay away from this one. Mechanical engineers at Rice University have figured out a way to turn dead spiders into "necrobotic" grippers. Yep, you heard that one right.
It's a recent development in the field of soft robotics, which researches robots made from nontraditional, soft materials. And flesh, even from spiders, is pretty soft.
Let's make some sense of this: chances are you’ve noticed that spiders curl up into a ball after dying. That's because spiders rely on hydraulic pressure to extend their legs outwards.
"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."
Apparently, this makes their corpses have the "perfect architecture" for repurposing into terrifying little grabbers.
The engineers stuck a needle into the hydraulic chamber of a wolf spider’s corpse, sealed it off with superglue, and used the needle to deliver air into the chamber, granting control over the legs.
Yep, with just a needle and some air, the engineers were able to get these necrobots to lift 130 percent of their body weight. And they’re pretty resilient too, holding 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."
Potential is one word for it. But as jacked up as all this sounds, the engineers stress that they aren’t reanimating anything — they’re just using the carcasses as arachnid puppets.
"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."
We’ll take their word for it. But let’s hope we won’t be seeing these in our local mall’s claw machines any time soon.
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