Sucker Transfers Thin Graphic
The test is powered by a machine learning algorithm that could significantly reduce the amount of time it takes physicians to diagnose a stroke. (Credit: Houston Methodist Hospital)

A new device inspired by an octopus’s sucker rapidly transfers delicate tissue or electronic sheets to the patient, overcoming a key barrier to clinical application.

Seeing the way an octopus or squid can pick up both wet and dry objects of all shapes with small pressure changes in their muscle-powered suction cups, rather than a sticky chemical adhesive, gave the researchers an idea.

They designed a manipulator made of a temperature-responsive layer of soft hydrogel attached to an electric heater. To pick up a thin sheet, the researchers gently heat the hydrogel to shrink it, then press it to the sheet and turn off the heat. The hydrogel expands slightly, creating suction with the soft tissue or flexible electronic film so it can be lifted and transferred. Then they gently place the thin film on the target and turn the heater back on, shrinking the hydrogel and releasing the sheet.

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