It is a complicated task to “copy” a machine that has a human “feel”, and we have seen the development of various soft robotic gripper over the years. But now, scientists have announced an important advance in this area, demonstrating the mechanical devices that are better able to grab fragile items. Scientists want to develop a soft robotic gripper that mimics the human index finger and thumb.

The design consists of five flaps with a pre-stretched elastomer in the middle and two layers of electrodes on each side (two layers of silica on the outside). Under normal conditions, these "flaps" will curl outward.

When there is current between the electrodes, they are attracted together (simulating the bending action of the muscles). However, the real key to this type of mechanical claw is the electrostatic field generated by the interlocking electrode at the tip of the "flap".

In equipment testing, researchers used it to grab fragile items such as eggs, water bladders, and paper. Compared with other soft robotic gripper, it has the advantage of being able to accurately handle the "strength" that is required for different objects (without knowing their shape in advance).

Under the help of the electrostatic adsorption effect, the flaps gently pinch the surface of the object 80 times its own weight. Researchers say this is the first time that electrostatic adsorption has been used for flexible mechanical jaws.