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    A robot arm toting a Venus flytrap can grab delicate objects

    A new robotic grabber is ripped straight from the plant world. The device, made with a severed piece of a Venus flytrap, can grasp tiny, delicate objects, researchers report January 25 in Nature Electronics.
    Normally, the carnivorous Dionaea muscipula scores a meal when unsuspecting prey touches delicate hairs on one of the plant’s jawlike leaves, triggering the trap to snap shut (SN: 10/14/20). But by sticking electrodes to the leaves and applying a small electric voltage, researchers designed a method to force Venus flytraps to close. Even when cut from the plant, the leaves retained the ability to shut upon command for up to a day, say materials scientist Wenlong Li and colleagues at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
    Integrating soft, flexible plant material into robotics could aid in picking up fragile objects that would otherwise be damaged by clunky, rigid graspers, the researchers say. So, Li’s team attached a piece of a flytrap to a robotic arm and used a smartphone app to control the trap. In experiments, the robotic grabber clutched a piece of wire one-half of a millimeter in diameter. And when not strapped to the robotic arm, the dismembered plant also caught a slowly moving 1-gram weight.
    One drawback: The traps take hours to reopen, meaning this bot had better make the catch on the first try.
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    Scientists controlled a Venus flytrap outfitted with electrodes, using a smartphone to direct it to grasp small objects like a wire and a moving weight. More

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    The first artificial material that follows sunlight may upgrade solar panels

    As the sun moves across the sky, sunflowers continually orient themselves to soak up the most light (SN: 8/4/16). Now a type of human-made material can do that, too. This is the first artificial material capable of phototropism, researchers report November 4 in Nature Nanotechnology. Stemlike cylinders of the material, dubbed SunBOTs, maneuvered to capture […] More

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    A chip made with carbon nanotubes, not silicon, marks a computing milestone

    “Silicon Valley” may soon be a misnomer. Inside a new microprocessor, the transistors — tiny electronic switches that collectively perform computations — are made with carbon nanotubes, rather than silicon. By devising techniques to overcome the nanoscale defects that often undermine individual nanotube transistors (SN: 7/19/17), researchers have created the first computer chip that uses […] More