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Biomimicry

Fraunhofer's Multishuttle Moves robots, in the distribution center mock-up

When it comes to groups that work together to get a job done, ants have pretty much got the process perfected. That’s why computer scientist Marco Dorigo studied the creatures’ behavior, and created his Ant Colony Optimization model – an algorithmic technique that can be applied to human endeavors, when efficiency is the order of the day. Scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics have now applied these algorithms to a swarm of 50 autonomous shuttle robots working in a parts warehouse, in an effort to create a new and better type of materials-handling system.  Read More

Researchers have created a robot that mimics the motion of a jellyfish and draws energy fr...

Researchers have created a silicone submarinal robot that gets about by mimicking the motion of a jellyfish. The robot is powered by heat-producing reactions catalyzed by its surface, and using hydrogen and oxygen present in the water as fuel. It's claimed that that the Robojelly, so named by its Virginia Tech creators, could run indefinitely, effectively drawing energy from the water in which it swims.  Read More

Using a photolithography process, scientists have created flat polymer sheets that bend th...

When the petal of a flower is being formed, its shape is achieved by cells in one area expanding more than cells in an adjacent area. This uneven expansion causes the material to buckle, creating the desired curves and creases. Scientists from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have taken that same principle, and applied it to flat polymer gel sheets that fold themselves into three-dimensional shapes when exposed to water. Some day, such sheets could serve a number of useful purposes.  Read More

One of Xinwei Wang's golden silk orbweaver spiders

Over the years, we’ve seen Spiderman use his webbing to catch villains, swing between buildings, and even parachute from great heights. In all that time, however, the opportunity never came up for him to use it to conduct heat. As it turns out, it would have been perfect for the job. Although materials from living things generally don’t conduct heat well, a team of scientists from Iowa State University have discovered that spider silk does so 800 times better than any other organic material ever tested. Because the silk is also very strong and stretchable, it could have a number of applications in human technology.  Read More

DARPA's quadruped CHEETAH robot has broken the land speed record for legged robots by reac...

It's been a very little over a year since Boston Dynamics was awarded a contract to develop a high-speed robotic quadruped by DARPA, but already the defense tech research agency's investment is bearing fruit, having announced that its CHEETAH galloping quadruped robot has broken the land speed record for robots with legs.  Read More

Innespace has introduced its new sea creature-inspired personal watercraft, the orca-like ...

Gosh, millionaires had it tough back in 2009. At that time, if they wanted to spend US$50,000 on a zippy, semi-submersible, sea creature-inspired watercraft, they were stuck with the basic dolphin-like model of Innespace’s Seabreacher. Now known as the Seabreacher J, it was joined in 2010 by the faster, wider and nastier-looking shark-inspired Seabreacher X. Now, word has reached us of yet another Seabreacher creature – the orca-like Y model.  Read More

NYU-Poly's tail-flapping biomimetic fish

A couple of years ago, a team of scientists from the University of Leeds succeeded in getting live stickleback fish to follow a computer-controlled “Robofish” as it was moved through their aquarium. Part of the reason for the experiment was to learn about fish behavior, in hopes that human interference in their migration routes could be minimized. While the Robofish was simply a plaster model, researchers from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University recently conducted a similar experiment, but using an actual tail-flapping robotic fish. Their discoveries could help save wild fish populations in the event of environmental disasters.  Read More

The super-adhesive 'Geckskin' can stick a 700-pound load to the wall without leaving a sti...

Everyone knows geckos have extraordinary powers of adhesion, able to clamber up vertical windows with remarkable ease. With the "Geckskin", a team of scientists have replicated the effect to produce a flat, index-card sized piece of material capable of carrying a 700-pound (318-kg) load - easily enough for a flatscreen television. It can be removed with ease and leaves no unpleasant oomska. And interestingly, it doesn't work as you might think.  Read More

The piranha-bite-proof scales of the Arapaima fish could serve as the inspiration for body...

Here's a question - if piranhas are so ferocious and will attack anything, why aren't they the only fish in the Amazon? Well, in some cases, it's because other fish possess bite-proof armor. The 300-pound (136-kg) Arapaima is just such a fish. In the dry season, when water levels get low, Arapaima are forced to share relatively small bodies of water with piranhas. Their tough-but-flexible scales, however, allow them to remain unharmed. A scientist from the University of California, San Diego is now taking a closer look at those scales, with an eye towards applying their secrets to human technology such as body armor.  Read More

Kai Richter (left) and Holger Mai of DLR inspect the installation of humpback whale-inspir...

Oh, those humpback whales and their weird fins. First, they inspired more efficient wind turbines. Next, their unique qualities were copied by undersea turbines used to harness tidal flow energy. Now, they’ve led to rotor blades that allow helicopters to be more maneuverable. It all comes down to bumps along their leading edge, known as tubercles.  Read More

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