Electrostatic attraction was known to the ancient Greeks and its modern electronic manifestation, "electroadhesion" has been used for the retention of paper in plotters since the advent of the analog computer. It was further developed as a means of robotic prehension during the 1980s. It has many applications in the handling of relatively light and planar components such as textiles, metal and polymer film, carbon and glass fibre sheet. More recently, research has been concentrated in the development of micro-grippers, electronic "pin boards" and small walking robots with electroadhesive feet.
For those interested a short history of electroadhesion is included here.
Here, an electrostatic micro-gripper can be seen holding a tiny lens. Electroadhesion is an astrictive prehension method whose forces introduce little or no mechanical stress on the work piece. Although relatively high voltages are needed, the devices are essentially capacitive so very little current flows. As a result most electroadhesive devices can be battery powered.