A professor at the University of Maine recently created a robotic Venus flytrap, not to capture annoying insects but to learn how to recreate small muscle function. Custom nanomaterials, known as ionic polymeric metal composites, make up the robot flytrap's lobes and trigger hairs; when these nanomaterials are given a small voltage current, the material reacts as a muscle would. In this case, touching the trigger hairs activates an electrode placed in the middle of the flytrap lobes, the electrode draws power from a small generator, and the trap snaps shut after a small delay.
Mohesen Shahinpoor, who has been developing these nanomaterials for years, plans to continue studying these carnivorous plants to learn more about how their lobes close so quickly — the goal is to continue to increase his nanomaterial's response time. This material could eventually be used for medical patients in need of artificial small muscles with life-like response, such as those suffering from facial paralysis.