Graduate student John Amend, left, and associate professor Hod Lipson at Cornell are among the team that collaborated to create this robotic gripping device. The two main components of the gripper are a balloon and coffee grounds. That’s right, coffee grounds. Here’s a quick rundown of how it works: the caffeinated blob first “wraps” around the desired object to be picked up then sucks out all the air inside the balloon through a vacuum leaving the grounds locked in place. Since there is no empty space left in the balloon, the grounds cannot shift over one another creating a stiff enough apparatus to hold the aforementioned object. Simple as it is effective. This kind of coolness is why I wanted to become an mechanical engineer.
It’s explained in further detail with a video of the gripper in action at www.cornell.edu.