How to improve food systems by looking to nature for design solutions – this was the brief given to entrants in the Biomimicry Institute’s Global Design Challenge, which announced its finalists this week. The selection committee has drawn up a list of eight teams, each of which has been invited to prototype its solution in an accelerator program that will award US$100,000 to the winner.
Currently, when scientists want to know if bacteria are present in
water, they have two main choices. They can take a sample to the lab,
where they'll try growing the suspected bacteria in it, and then count
the number of resulting colonies to determine the concentration. Or,
they can analyze it using expensive lab-based gas chromatography or mass
spectrometry equipment. Now, however, researchers from Seoul National
University have developed a "bioelectronic nose" that could be used on
location, and that is reportedly more sensitive than existing
Imagine if things like undersea cables or medical implants could simply
heal themselves back together if severed – it would certainly be easier
than having to go in and fix them. Well, scientists at Pennsylvania
State University are bringing such a possibility closer to reality.
They've created a moldable polymer that heals itself when exposed to
water – and it's based on squid sucker ring teeth.
When it comes to human phobias, snakes are frequently found toward the top of the list. But despite the negative reputation, these reptiles make up an important part of our ecosystem while exhibiting some very unique biological aspects. The way snakes move across surfaces is pretty incredible, and researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have figured out how to potentially use that feature to enhance everything from hip prostheses to computer hard disks.
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are honing the applications of a gecko-like gripping mechanism in the hope of making life a little less chaotic for those working aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The ever-inventive JPL workers have come up with a series of "astronaut anchors" for use both inside and outside the station, and have even equipped a robot with the tech, opening up the possibility of allowing it to safely operate on the exterior of the space station.
Unlike most other sea creatures, sea lions use their forelimbs
instead of a tail for propulsion. They also leave virtually no wake as
they travel through the water. With an eye towards applying this design
to human technology, George Washington University professor of
mechanical and aerospace engineering Megan Leftwich has developed a
robotic sea lion flipper.
The whiskers that help rats find their way around dingy sewers has inspired a tactile sensor that could be used for navigating all manner of dark conditions. Scientists have developed a device capable of generating images of obscured environments by monitoring both air and fluid flow, and which could find its way into biomedical applications.
Despite what our science fiction-fueled imaginations love to be
entertained with, there is more to the field of modern robotics than colossal combat machines or bionic baristas.
Some projects may seem mundane by comparison, yet the results are no
less impressive, especially the ones that enlighten through the process.
Although it took a few trial and error attempts, scientists have
finally created an insect-inspired robot that can jump off of water's
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are taking inspiration from nature in the search for new materials that could one day be used to create body armor. The study, supported by the US Air Force, focuses on the unique structure and strength of the hexagonally-scaled shell of the boxfish.
Humanity's industrial processes have a huge impact on the and, releasing harmful substances such as mercury, arsenic and lead into the water. Chinese researchers are hoping that synthetic coral that mimics the ability of the real thing to collect harmful heavy metals from water could help in the clean up effort, with tests on the effectiveness of the aluminum oxide structure so far showing promising results.