A brand-new robotic grabber is ripped straight from the plant world. The device, made with a severed piece of a Venus flytrap, can grasp small, fragile things, researchers report January 25 in Nature Electronic Devices.

Usually, the carnivorous Dionaea muscipula scores a meal when unwary prey touches delicate hairs on one of the plant’s jawlike leaves, setting off the trap to snap shut ( SN: 10/14/20). By sticking electrodes to the leaves and using a little electrical voltage, scientists created a technique to require Venus flytraps to close.

Incorporating soft, versatile plant material into robotics might assist in getting vulnerable objects that would otherwise be damaged by cumbersome, stiff graspers, the scientists state. Li’s group attached a piece of a flytrap to a robotic arm and utilized a smartphone app to manage the trap. In experiments, the robotic grabber clutched a piece of wire one-half of a millimeter in diameter. And when not strapped to the robotic arm, the dismembered plant also captured a slowly moving 1-gram weight.

One drawback: The traps take hours to resume, implying this bot had much better make the catch on the very first try.

Scientists controlled a Venus flytrap outfitted with electrodes, utilizing a smartphone to direct it to grasp little objects like a wire and a moving weight.


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