New research out of Rice University is leaving some people with a newfound fear of spiders.
Led by graduate student Faye Yap, in partnership with engineer Daniel Preston, a group of researchers discovered a way to use dead spiders in an unusual way: by turning them into robots.
What purpose could that serve, you might ask?
Well, according to the research, which was published in the journal Advanced Science, the goal is to use spiders to manipulate and move tiny objects, which could prove useful for many practical applications including working with microelectronics.
In a Rice University press release, Preston said of the spider, “It’s something that hasn’t been used before but has a lot of potential.”
While most mammals move their limbs through the synchronization of muscles, spiders use hydraulics. According to the press release, spiders’ legs open and close thanks to pressure being introduced and relieved.
The recreate that movement, Yap, Preston, and other researchers gathered wolf spider cadavers and used a tiny needle to fill their bodies with air and then release that air. The introduction and abolition of that pressure caused the legs to work as a claw machine of sorts, opening and closing on demand.
They were able to use the spiders to move objects, manipulate a circuit board, and even lift another spider!
Using one cadaver, they tested around 1,000 open-close cycles on the spider’s legs to see how sturdy it was and found it held up pretty well.
“It starts to experience some wear and tear as we get close to 1,000 cycles,” Preston said, adding that they have some ideas to overcome the wear and tear to create a more durable model.
Researchers are hoping to continue testing the use of spiders as robots in a field that Preston and Yap have dubbed “Necrobiotics.”
While some people are hesitant about using a dead body to create a robot, Preston argues that they’re simply utilizing the spiders’ natural body materials to create something new. Not only does the spider body offer a pre-made mechanism that could prove useful, but it also reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfill since spiders are completely decomposable.
You can learn more about the research in the video below!