Robotic tentacle targets keyhole surgery

Engineers have built a robotic arm, aimed at improving surgical operations and inspired by the octopus. The robotic tentacle has no rigid skeleton; it can bend, stretch and switch between flexible and rigid states as required. Its movement is driven by inflatable compartments and its stiffness by a central tube containing a granular medium: coffee.
When suction is applied, the granules "jam" to create the desired rigidity. The design is described in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. Ultimately, the researchers hope to develop the device so that it can be used in "minimally invasive surgery", operations performed via a body cavity or a keyhole-type incision.
"The human body represents a highly challenging and non-structured environment, where the capabilities of the octopus can provide several advantages with respect to traditional surgical tools," said lead author Tommaso Ranzani, from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa.