CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Real-life science that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie! Engineers are taking dead spiders and turning them into “zombie robots.” Video shows a necrobotic project being undertaken at Rice University. The mechanical engineers say they can a re-animate the legs of a dead wolf-spider using a syringe filled with air. The engineers say this works because a spider’s legs work like hydraulics. Putting air into the spider causes the legs to open. Releasing the air causes the legs to close. Why spiders? They’re biodegradable and eco-friendly. “It also offers to potential to reduce waste streams. So these grippers, as you might guess, are made from these biotic materials are compostable or biodegradable,” says Rice University Engineering Professor Daniel Preston.

The whole idea started when the engineers found a dead spider in the lab. They wondered why spiders curl up when they die. After some research, the engineers decided to see if they could reactive the spider’s leg mechanics. Rice University graduate student Faye Yap says, “We took the spider. We placed the needle in it, not knowing what was going to happen. We kind had an estimate of where we were going to place the needle, and when we did it it worked. The first time. Right off the bat actually, and that was really…I don’t know how to describe it!”

While the scientists say this as a cool stunt, they also say necrobotics could be useful for sorting or moving objects on a small scale, assembling microelectronics or capturing smaller insects in nature, due to their natural camouflage.

Our question of the night: Is necrobotics something out of a horror film or cool?

This episode features:
WCCB TV’s Morgan Fogarty
WCCB TV’s Zach Aldridge


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