Octopus-inspired glove captures underwater objects

Adhesives that work underwater are difficult to make. This is due to the fact that hydrogen bonds and forces

interactions that provide adhesion(adhesion of surfaces of bodies) in dry environments, much less effective in water. But the animal kingdom contains many examples of adhesion in wet conditions: mussels secrete special proteins, creating a sticky coating to adhere to wet surfaces. Frogs force fluid through the structured pads of their toes to activate capillary and hydrodynamic forces. And cephalopods like the octopus use suckers to stick to surfaces through suction.

Octopus grips are especially good for holdingitems underwater. They have eight long, sucker-covered tentacles that can grasp prey. The suction cups stick to the item, quickly creating a strong bond that is hard to break. “Adhesion in the octopus quickly activates,” explains research team leader Michael Bartlett. “And the octopus controls more than 2,000 suckers on eight tentacles, processing information from chemical and mechanical sensors.”

Octopuses use eyes and system for adhesionphotoreception; mechanoreceptors that detect fluid flow, pressure and contact, and tactile chemoreception sensors. Each suction cup is independently controlled to activate or de-adhesion - something synthetic adhesives don't.

The developed "adhesive glove" consists ofsilicone elastomer rod coated with a pneumatically actuated membrane to control adhesion. The adhesive element is connected to a pressure source that manipulates the pressure to control the shape of the membrane. The suction cups and sensors are then connected via a microcontroller to detect objects and control adhesion.

“This design allows us 450 timesswitch adhesion from on to off in less than 50 milliseconds, says Bartlett. “We have integrated adhesive elements with an array of optical sensors that determine how close an object is.”

This device, called the Octa-glove, can find objects of various shapes underwater. When an object is detected, the system automatically activates the adhesive to begin manipulation of the object.

“By combining soft, responsive adhesivematerials with embedded electronics, we can grab objects without having to squeeze them,” Bartlett said. “This makes handling wet items much easier and more natural. Just put your hand on something and the glove does all the gripping work without the user having to do it.”

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