Watch: Scientists turn dead spiders into robots, use them to pick up objects

US scientists transform dead spiders into "necrobotic spiders" to pick up micro objects.

Highlights
  • US researchers are using dead spiders and turning them into robots.
  • These spiders can mechanically grip and pick up objects.
  • The experiment shows dead spiders can lift more than 130 percent of their own body weight.

A team of researchers at Rice University, USA, have recently discovered how to transform dead wolf spiders into robots and make them pick up objects by pumping air into their legs and extending them. They have named this invention as ‘Necrobotics’. According to the researchers, abilities of such “zombie robot spiders” can be purposed in many fields ranging from catching of insects to even assembling microelectronics. 

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Researchers explained that unlike humans and other mammals who tend to use muscles, spiders use hydraulics to move their limbs. Dead spiders can lift more than 130 percent of their body weight and sometimes even more than that, as per the studies.

How a dead spider is transformed into a robot spider?

Daniel Preston, an engineering professor at Rice University, in a press release, said “It happens to be the case that the spider – after it’s deceased – is the perfect architecture for small-scale, naturally derived grippers.”

After a spider dies, it loses the hydraulic pressure through which it operates its limbs as the heart stops pumping. Researchers have found a way to get back the hydraulic pressure. In the experiment, they inserted a needle in the spider’s prosoma chamber, creating a seal around the tip of the needle by using super glue and then squeezing air through the syringe. This made the limbs extend and contract, thereby substituting the hydraulic pressure and making its legs move.

The researchers were able to pull this off in less than a second. There is a chamber near the spider’s head that contracts to send blood to its limbs and forces the spider to extend the limbs. As soon as the pressure is relieved, the legs contract. Therefore, spiders move their legs via blood pressure.

The researchers have already tried the pick-and-place tasks with different objects and the dead spiders or the newly called ‘robot spiders’ were able to grasp them. They also observed that “smaller spiders carry heavier loads in comparison to their size. Conversely, the larger the spider, the smaller the load it can carry in comparison to its own body weight. “