Menu
About Science
Study reveals why the leopard got its spots
Allergy risk linked to time of first trimester
Hubble reveals furthest galaxy yet
Scientists confirm water from lunar probe
Researchers power up tiny batteries
Plants clean air better than expected
Haiti fault capable of another big quake
Japanese man joins growing genome ranks
NASA releases report into balloon crash
Tree's ability to soak up CO2 has limits
Ground coffee helps robot get a grip
Assassin bugs lure arachnid snack
Research reveals spring in ostrich's step
Lizard gender bends at altitude
Study suggests early primates out of Asia
Flamingos boost their colour to find a mate
Globular clusters more than one-off event
Ancient Africans first to use sharp tools
Grass could turn toxic waste into energy
Earth-like planets may be common
Natural born cell killers
Fingers spot typo ahead of the brain
Ecofriendly styrofoam from milk and clay
Study proves exercise boosts immune system
Ground coffee helps robot get a grip
A floppy robotic hand that stiffens when air is sucked out, much like a vacuum-packed brick of coffee, may form the basis of a new type of robotic gripping mechanism, U.S. researchers say.

The gripper is essentially a latex balloon filled with ground coffee, and is slipped around hard objects. Because it is soft it's able to conform to the object's shape.

When a vacuum is applied it contracts and hardens, much like a vacuum-packed brick of coffee, grabbing the object. When the vacuum is released and air rushes in, and the hand releases its grip.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, Cornell University in New York and iRobot Corp report on the technology in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team says the so-called "universal gripper" could be used on prosthetic limbs, to dismantle explosive devices, move potentially dangerous objects or as robotic arms in factories.

The design is based on the transition between two states: a loose state and a jammed state, in which granules of coffee go from a fluid to a solid state.

Dr Hod Lipson, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and computer science at Cornell, says the ground coffee grains are like lots of small gears.

"When they are not pressed together, they can roll over each other and flow. When they are pressed together just a little bit, the teeth interlock, and they become solid," he says.
Military backing

Many materials can do this, including rice or sand, but the team settled on ground coffee because it is a lightweight material.

They say the gripper works well with many types of objects, including a raw egg and a coin, objects that can be difficult even for humans to manipulate.

The work was supported by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, through the United States Army Research Office. The researchers have filed for a patent on the technology.

Print
Researchers put spark into scramjets
Fish found making their own 'mozzie' nets
Japan confirms asteroid dust on outback probe
Genetech pioneer awarded science prize
Scientists capture anti-matter atoms
Study reveals Icelandic eruption build-up
Astronomers spot galactic intruder
Open-mouthed laughter appreciated most
Financial crisis causes dip in CO2 levels
Puberty genes linked to body fat
Face shields needed for combat: study
Organically-grown vegies not more nutritious
Bloodstains could give age away
Models show pterosaurs flew long, slow
Marsupial carnivores were underestimated
Massive black hole collision revealed
Jet-lag causes long term memory loss
Sunken tanks could detect secret nukes
Dino demise supersized the mammals
Binge drinking linked to heart disease
Cassini sniffs oxygen on Saturnian moon
Image shows echoes from before big bang
Research uncovers diamond's soft side
World warmer, but trends at odds: report
Humans caused megafauna demise: expert
The world: Four degrees warmer
Blood vessels show pollution, heart disease link
Young great whites don't have the bite
Menu
Dolphin social network good for calves
Is fish-oil Alzheimer snake-oil?
Cosmic rays trace Sun's journey through space
Marsupial mole mystery solved
Scientists warn of new polio virus strain
Oldest known stone axe found in Arnhem Land
Fly-by captures first comet photos
Dead quasar's ghostly glow reignites debate
Mum and Dad tell us how to wear our genes
New images expand solar flare knowledge
Experts urge caution on Snowy cloud seeding
First little Big Bangs created at CERN
Tarantulas help map the fear factor
Neanderthal brains developed differently
Whales showing more sun damage
Bush cricket has the biggest balls of all
Giant gamma bubbles found in Milky Way
Complex life possible earlier than first thought
Happiness evades wandering minds?
Cat lapping defies gravity
Physics unravels wet dog shake
Hubble captures rare galactic view
Early wrinkles no sign of an early grave
World's forests suffer from 'leakage'