Scientists convert dead spiders into cybernetic grabbers

What's worse than cyborg spiders? Dead cyborg spiders!

…Unless you're part of the "necrobotics" (yes really) lab at Rice University, in which case, dead cyborg spiders can actually be a handy tool for creating a set of mechanical grippers that can pick up objects while blending into natural environments. From the press release:

"It happens to be the case that the spider, after it's deceased, is the perfect architecture for small scale, naturally derived grippers," said Daniel Preston of Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering


"We were moving stuff around in the lab and we noticed a curled up spider at the edge of the hallway," [graduate student Faye Yap] said. "We were really curious as to why spiders curl up after they die."

A quick search found the answer: "Spiders do not have antagonistic muscle pairs, like biceps and triceps in humans," Yap said. "They only have flexor muscles, which allow their legs to curl in, and they extend them outward by hydraulic pressure. When they die, they lose the ability to actively pressurize their bodies. That's why they curl up. 

"At the time, we were thinking, 'Oh, this is super interesting.' We wanted to find a way to leverage this mechanism," she said.

In addition to their unique gripping mechanism — unlike most muscle-reliant creatures, spiders actually have hydraulic systems built into their bodies — spiders are also known to have the proportionate strength of a Spider-Man, which means they can easily lift more than 130% of their body weight. This makes them particularly useful for grabbing things!

Who knew zombie cyborg spiders could be so handy?

Rice engineers get a grip with 'necrobotic' spiders [Mike Williams / Rice University]