Researchers at the University of Maine and the Seoul National University have developed two robots that can not only hunt small bugs, but can also digest them for filling their stomach. Both the robots depict the same principle of Venus Flytraps, who snap-shuts its mouth as soon as an insect sits on its sensitive hair.
The robot developed at Maine has muscles designed for capturing its prey. They are artificial in nature and are made of special gold type nanomaterials. The nanomaterials are designed to mimic the muscles that functions inside a flytrap’s mouth. The first report about the robot came in the online version of the journal “Bioinspiration and Biomimetics”. According to them, an ionic polymeric metal composite is used in the manufacture of the device. This composite has a unique bending feature in the presence of an electric field. This feature is applied to make the device trap the insect, similar to the way the flytrap’s lobes expand and contract to catch its prey. All this can be done only in the presence of an electric field. The sensor hairs are made out of the ionic metal composite and two leaves were also designed using a polymer membrane coated with gold electrodes. As shown in the figure above, these two leaves are again connected to a copper electrode and waits for its prey. When an insect sits on top of the sensor hairs, it senses it and sends a signal to the lobes to capture it. The lobes snap towards each other in a fast pace and thus captures it.
The robot developed at Seoul is designed in the similar way as a mouse trap. It consists of a pair of springs made out of carbon fibers. As soon as an insect sits on top of the spring, it sontracts and pulls the carbon fiber leaves together. Thus, the prey is caught.
Both the developers are trying to make some further developments by transporting the dead insect to some small gut for digestion and caloric production. If this experiment becomes successful, not only will they develop a robot that can hunt and kill, but also produce one that can turn its output into something useful.