by David Geer
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Robotic Venus Flytrap Models
Small Muscle Function; Catches
Bugs To Use As Fuel
A prototype for a robotic venus flytrap has been developed, mainly to recreate
small muscle function. The flytrap we’ll discuss here uses polymer membrane
muscles coated with gold or platinum electrodes that can respond to electric
current to quickly close the flytrap’s lobes or leaves on its insect prey. By applying
polarity and then reverse-polarity, the robot flytrap closes on sensed bugs and
then opens again. This kind of capability has potential for numerous medical
applications. Patients suffering from facial paralysis require the use of many tiny
muscles, and such soft robotic material could one day be implanted in the face
to help. Similarly, people with eye and heart diseases could benefit from high
performing muscle-like material.
The robot venus
flytrap — wired,
open, and ready
to devour all of
When a bug lands on the membrane,
the membrane trigger hairs or bristles
bend producing a current. Dr.
Mohsen (Mo) Shahinpoor, PhD applies
this current reaction as a sensor,
informing the flytrap mechanism of
the bug’s presence and triggering a
larger current through a solid-state
relay that closes the robot flytrap.
This robot venus flytrap could be
considered for use as the mouth of
the Ecobot III, to provide fuel for it to
run on. Recall that the Ecobot contains
a fully functional digestive system.
The robot venus flytrap is intended to mimic its biological counterpart. In nature, the real venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
is one of 500 different types of plant life that eat meat. It lays its
cunning trap — delicious sap for the hungry spider or other insect
— captures its prey physically in its leaves, and eats the bug meat.
Using the hairs on its lobes, the venus flytrap detects movement.
If it senses brushing against more than one hair within a 20 second
interval or against the same hair in much smaller intervals, it closes
its lobes to catch its feast. Any other movement could be lifeless
and coincidental, not providing the plant with anything good to eat.
10 SERVO 03.2012