HOUSTON (KXAN) — Dead spiders can be repurposed for robotics. Yes, you read that right.

Rice University mechanical engineers are manipulating dead spiders’ legs with air to use them as mechanical grippers. This experiment initiated the scientific area of “necrobotics” in which biotic materials are used as robotic components, a research article, written by members of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University, explained.

Daniel Preston of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering explained that they’re using the deceased spiders because they are the perfect architecture for small scale, naturally derived grippers.

Preston’s lab specializes in soft robotic systems that often use nontraditional materials, as opposed to hard plastics, metals and electronics.

“This area of soft robotics is a lot of fun because we get to use previously untapped types of actuation and materials,” Preston said. “The spider falls into this line of inquiry. It’s something that hasn’t been used before but has a lot of potential.”

Rice graduate student Faye Yap, the lead author of the study on necrobotics, said the project began shortly after Preston established his lab in Rice’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2019.

The mechanical engineering department has already come up with ideas on necrobotic applications, like pick-and-place tasks, sorting or moving objects of small scale, or capturing smaller insects in nature.

Co-authors of the study are graduate students Zhen Liu and Trevor Shimokusu and postdoctoral fellow Anoop Rajappan. Preston is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.