Inspired by nature, SEAS researchers designed a new type of soft, robotic gripper that uses a collection of thin tentacles to entangle and ensnare objects.
The gripper’s strength and adaptability come from its ability to entangle itself with the object it is attempting to grasp. The foot-long filaments are hollow, rubber tubes. One side of the tube has thicker rubber than the other, so when the tube is pressurized, it curls like a pigtail or like straightened hair on a rainy day.
The curls knot and entangle with each other and the object, with each entanglement increasing the strength of the hold. While the collective hold is strong, each contact is individually weak and won’t damage even the most fragile object. To release the object, the filaments are simply depressurized.
'The mechanism it certainly was that held my attention first. It was one of those complicated fabrics that have since been called handling-machines, and the study of which has already given such an enormous impetus to terrestrial invention. As it dawned upon me first, it presented a sort of metallic spider with five jointed, agile legs, and with an extraordinary number of jointed levers, bars, and reaching and clutching tentacles about its body. Most of its arms were retracted, but with three long tentacles it was fishing out a number of rods, plates, and bars..
...At first, I say, the handling-machine did not impress me as a machine, but as a crablike creature with a glittering integument...
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/21/2022)