Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
    New Perspectives on Repurposing Dead Insects in Robotics

    A recent breakthrough in the field of robotics has demonstrated that dead insects can serve as valuable resources in the creation of innovative engineering devices. This groundbreaking discovery challenges traditional approaches to material development and could revolutionize the way we think about manufacturing and waste management in the technology industry.

    Anoop Rajappan, a mechanical engineer and post-doctoral researcher at Rice University in Texas, was part of a team that reanimated the legs of a dead spider to create a gripper that was awarded the prestigious Ig Nobel Prize. This necrobotic gripper, inspired by the natural design and chemistry of insects, has the potential to reshape the search for new materials in robotics.

    The key to this invention lies in the observation that spiders utilize hydraulic pressure to extend their legs. When they die, their legs curl up due to the loss of this pressure. Rajappan and his team hypothesized that by supplying pressurized air to the deceased spider’s legs, they could recreate the gripping mechanism. Their experiment was a success, leading to the creation of the necrobotic gripper.

    While the gripper’s ability to lift and move objects is noteworthy, its real value lies in addressing the problem of electronic waste in the robotics industry. Traditional mechanical grippers require numerous parts that must be manufactured, assembled, and eventually discarded as waste. In contrast, the necrobotic gripper repurposes a cadaver with just one simple assembly step, eliminating the need for complex fabrication processes.

    The current version of the necrobotic gripper can lift objects 1.3 times its own weight and withstand approximately 700 uses before degradation. Additionally, it is biodegradable and offers a more eco-friendly alternative for handling delicate samples. This innovation signifies a shift towards utilizing existing resources in an unobtrusive and sustainable manner.

    Anoop Rajappan, born and raised in Kerala, India, has always been captivated by the idea that small changes can have a significant impact. Through his research, he aims to develop bio-inspired solutions that reimagine ancient designs with a modern twist. Rajappan emphasizes the importance of looking to nature for inspiration and working with the resources readily available in our environment.

    The necrobotic gripper represents a paradigm shift in robotics, where scientists are not merely mimicking natural designs but repurposing existing materials for practical application. This approach enables us to harness the wisdom of evolution and find innovative solutions to pressing challenges such as resource depletion and climate change.


    Q: What is a necrobotic gripper?
    A: A necrobotic gripper is an innovative engineering device that uses the legs of a dead spider to create a gripping mechanism. It utilizes hydraulic pressure to extend the legs and can be used for various applications in robotics.

    Q: What is the significance of the necrobotic gripper?
    A: The necrobotic gripper offers a fresh perspective on material development in robotics and addresses the issue of electronic waste. It repurposes existing resources and eliminates the need for complex manufacturing processes, making it a more sustainable solution.

    Q: Who developed the necrobotic gripper?
    A: The necrobotic gripper was developed by a team of researchers at Rice University in Texas, led by mechanical engineer Anoop Rajappan.

    Q: How does the necrobotic gripper contribute to environmental sustainability?
    A: The necrobotic gripper is biodegradable and enables the handling of delicate samples in an eco-friendly manner. By repurposing dead insects, it reduces waste and promotes a more sustainable approach to material development in robotics.