a five-toed octopus appendage for working underwater

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An octopus-inspired glove with suction cups could help humans hold slippery objects underwater.

Rescue divers, archaeologists, deck engineers and salvage teams all need to use their hands to pick up people and objects underwater. Yet anyone who has tried to hold a wriggling fish knows that underwater objects can be difficult to grasp with human fingers.

Now, a team of Virginia Tech researchers has turned to nature for a solution, taking inspiration from the octopus.

Enter the “Octa-glove”, a five-fingered appendage featured in Scientists progress.

“When we look at the octopus, the adhesive certainly stands out, quickly activating and releasing the adhesion on demand,” says Michael Bartlett, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who led the research team.

“What’s equally interesting, however, is that the octopus controls more than 2,000 suckers on eight arms by processing information from various chemical and mechanical sensors. The Octopus really combines grip tunability, sensing and control to manipulate underwater objects.

Each Octa-glove finger mimics an octopus tentacle, with a synthetic rubber fingerprint-sized suction cup attached. The suction cups are capped with flexible membranes designed to reliably attach to flat and curved objects using light pressure.

Octa-glove picking up a Virginia Tech playing card underwater from Michael Bartlett’s lab. Credit: Virginia Tech

The team added micro-LIDAR sensors that allow the glove to detect the proximity of an object. These sensors mimic the nervous and muscular systems of an octopus, triggering the suckers to latch on.

“This makes handling wet or underwater objects much easier and more natural. The electronics can activate and release the grip quickly – just move your hand to an object and the glove does the work of grabbing it Everything can be done without the user pressing a single button,” explains Bartlett.

Researchers are able to manipulate the mini-LIDAR to test different gripping modes. To manipulate delicate and light objects, they used a single sensor and were able to quickly grab and release flat objects, metal toys, cylinders, the double-curved part of a spoon, and an ultra-lightweight hydrogel ball. gentle. By using all the sensors for object detection, they were also able to grab larger objects like a plate, box, and bowl.

The research team included Sean Frey, ABM Tahidul Haque, Elizabeth Krotz, Cole Haverkamp, ​​and Chanhong Lee, representing Virginia Tech, Iowa State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



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