Eric Markvicka, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, has collaborated with researchers at Virginia Tech to develop octopus-inspired glove that gives divers a reliable grasp on objects underwater.
The secret to the Octa-glove is a rapidly switching adhesive that integrates sensors, processing and control to switch on and off based on the distance to an object. It's similar to how the suckers on an octopus' arm operate independent of each other and activate only when the octopus wants to pick up the object.
Markvicka's Smart Robotics and Materials Laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is developing smart skins, with alternating adhesive technology. These skins – made with silicon membranes on stalks – emulate a nervous system and feature five suckers on each glove (one on each fingertip), compared to 2,000 on the body of an octopus.
In a recently published paper, the research team explained that while land-based, dry-environment adhesives have seen advancements in recent years, finding ways to make things stick together underwater is still difficult.
This glove could have impactful applications to a variety of underwater jobs, including welding and mechanical repairs, where divers might need a reliable grip on tools to complete the work.
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