A university in Texas has successfully turned dead spiders into necrobotic grippers capable of lifting items weighing more than 130% their own body weight.

Footage shared by Rice University shows researchers using spider carcasses to pick up and place small items.
Rice University graduate student Faye Yap said: “They [spiders] only have flexor muscles, which allow their legs to curl in, and they extend them outward by hydraulic pressure.”

Yap and Assistant Professor Daniel Preston found that by injecting air into a deceased spider they could replicate the function of this pressure, extending the spider’s legs outwards.

Preston said the research could be applied to “repetitive tasks like sorting or moving objects around at these small scales, and maybe even things like assembly of microelectronics.”

“Also, the spiders themselves are biodegradable,” Preston added. “So we’re not introducing a big waste stream, which can be a problem with more traditional components.”

The research was carried out at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University, which specialises in soft robotic systems using nontraditional materials. Preston and Yap have named their novel research into the physiology of spiders “necrobotics”.

Credit: Brandon Martin/Rice University via Storyful