Necrobotics is a new and emerging field of robotics that uses biotic materials, or dead organisms as we call them, as robotic components. The term “necrobotics” comes from the word “necromancy” and “robotics”. It is the technology that mixes robotics with dead organisms. These ‘robots’ are called necrobots. While necromancy is fictional, necrobotics is real.
Advantages of necrobotics
One of the main advantages of necrobotics is that it uses existing biological structures for specific functions. For instance, last July 2022 saw researchers at Rice University experimented with repurposing dead spiders. They used the spiders as robotic grippers by applying pressurized air to activate their gripping arms. This way, they can avoid the challenges of designing and fabricating artificial grippers from scratch.
Our #necrobotics paper is out today in open-access @AdvSciNews Advanced Science! We repurposed biotic material (in this case, a deceased spider) as a #robotic gripper. #materials #engineering https://t.co/y7NRRA55Zx pic.twitter.com/Yo9tn9IyQv
— Daniel J Preston (@ProfDanPreston) July 25, 2022
Another potential benefit of necrobotics is that it can reduce the wastage of robotics by using biodegradable materials instead of synthetic ones. A huge amount of tech waste or electronic waste is produced each year around the world. As of 2023, there are over 347 million metric tons of electronic waste on the earth. Environmentalists and governments are trying to reduce various types of waste for a while now. Since this new technology makes use of biotic bodies, it can decompose naturally which ultimately reduces tech waste.
Technical hurdles and ethical concerns
However, necrobotics also face some challenges and limitations. One of the main challenges is how to preserve the biotic materials so that they do not decay. Another challenge is how to integrate them with electronic devices and control systems so that they can function reliably and efficiently like a robot. A biological body is a very complex system, so controlling it externally as a brain does can pose a serious technical difficulty.
Furthermore, the use of necrobotics is bound to raise some social and moral concerns. For instance, some people may find it to be disturbing or disrespectful to use dead bodies for robotic purposes. Others might wonder about the implications of using such technology in light of the definition and value of life and death. Apart from the possibility that people might find it uncomfortable to work with dead bodies, using the fields of usage for it may be limited.
It is highly unlikely that necrobotics will be used as replacement food production or surgical robotics. Using dead bodies might also be a potential threat as tools for criminal activities in the far future when it advances further. And we are not only talking about animals but human bodies as well.
Looking forward to possibilities
But Necrobotics is a promising field of robotics. It has some advantages over conventional robotics in terms of utilizing natural structures and reducing environmental impact. However, it also faces some serious challenges. Necrobotics is still in its infancy stage, but it has the potential to open up new possibilities and applications for robotics in the future.
YouTube: Lab manipulates deceased spiders’ legs with a puff of air to serve as grabbers
Photo credits: The feature photo is only symbolic and has been taken by Marian Anbu Juwan. The image in the body of the article is licensed by NCBI and has been provided for press usage.
Sources: NCBI / Arabella Ruiz (TheRoundup)