Structure and mechanical properties of Octopus vulgaris suckers

Francesca Tramacere, Alexander Kovalev, Thomas Kleinteich, Stanislav N. Gorb, Barbara Mazzolai


In this study, we investigate the morphology and mechanical features of Octopus vulgaris suckers, which may serve as a model for the creation of a new generation of attachment devices. Octopus suckers attach to a wide range of substrates in wet conditions, including rough surfaces. This amazing feature is made possible by the sucker's tissues, which are pliable to the substrate profile. Previous studies have described a peculiar internal structure that plays a fundamental role in the attachment and detachment processes of the sucker. In this work, we present a mechanical characterization of the tissues involved in the attachment process, which was performed using microindentation tests. We evaluated the elasticity modulus and viscoelastic parameters of the natural tissues (E ∼ 10 kPa) and measured the mechanical properties of some artificial materials that have previously been used in soft robotics. Such a comparison of biological prototypes and artificial material that mimics octopus-sucker tissue is crucial for the design of innovative artificial suction cups for use in wet environments. We conclude that the properties of the common elastomers that are generally used in soft robotics are quite dissimilar to the properties of biological suckers.

  • Received September 4, 2013.
  • Accepted November 6, 2013.
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© 2013 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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