Carnivorous robots

In recent years there has been a race to determine how to create sustainable robots for long missions. This race has created robots that break down grass and twigs to power them on their tasks.

Recently this sustainable race has turned toward a slightly darker track. There are now robots that can break down bugs and create a power source out of them. That is the hope that two research centers have for the future of robots. These two centers are located in Seoul, South Korea, and Orono, Maine. Each research facility has recently devised a way for robots to capture bugs. While the methods are similar, they use different base components.

A robot that catches flies and spiders. Photo from Creative Commons.

The one bug-trapping robot made in Seoul was produced by Seoul University and uses a memory shape metal spring. Both bots discussed in this article are modeled after Venus Flytraps. The miniature robot is nothing more than a battery and circuit board and whatever materials make up the the leaves of the Venus Flytrap bot. In this case, it’s a carbon fiber polymer. The spring is triggered like any common mouse trap, and when weight is applied to the bottom leaf, the trap swings shut trapping whatever the bot may have in its grasp. It’s a little more complicated than it sounds, but whenever the weight presses down against the bottom leaf it activates an electrical current, which triggers the electric sensitive spring to shut.

The bot, made by engineer Mohsen Shahinpoor at the University of Maine, uses a slightly more complicated method of bug capture. The leaves of this Venus bot are covered in a polymer membrane coated in gold electrodes. When a bug or anything hits the membrane, it compacts the gold electrodes against a conductive surface beneath, allowing for the trap to quickly shut on its victim. The reason it does this is the polymer membrane is designed to curl when introduced to an electrical current.

While these flytraps may be the start of a terrible robot apocalypse, it will be years before people will need to worry about the Man Hunter 2000 robot that captures and devours humans alive. Once the robot traps, the flies are stuck holding onto them with no means to transfer them to a chemical digestive system to break down the flies into a fuel source. So, everyone can breath easy for now, but there is no telling when the robot uprising may begin and whether or not we will be on their meal plan.