A short electric pulse is all it takes to generate and release a powerful vacuum in the blink of an eye. The novel vacuum gripper developed by the research team led by Professor Stefan Seelecke at Saarland University enables robot arms to pick up objects and move them around freely in space. The system works without the need for compressed air to generate the vacuum, it is energy efficient, quiet and suitable for use in clean rooms. The specialists for intelligent materials systems make use of artificial muscles, which are bundles of ultrafine shape memory wires that are able to tense and relax just as real muscle fibres do. The wires also function as sensors and can sense, for example, when the gripper needs to readjust or tighten its grip.