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Biomimicry

A sample of the man-made mother of pearl (top), compared to the real thing (Image: Nature)...

Mother of pearl, also known as nacre, is the hard iridescent coating found on the outside of pearls, and the inside of certain mollusc’s shells. Besides being a nice-looking material used for jewelry and other types of ornamentation, it’s also remarkably strong. Now, scientists from the University of Cambridge have discovered how to make the stuff themselves.  Read More

Hilary Bart-Smith's robotic cow-nosed ray

Sometime in the future, perhaps sometime soon, the robotic jellyfish, octopi and fish cruising the world’s oceans may have to make way for one other companion – the robotic ray. A team led by University of Virginia engineering professor Hilary Bart-Smith has created such a “creature,” in hopes that its autonomously-operated descendants may someday help us humans explore and study the sea, or possibly perform surveillance for the military.  Read More

Researchers have created an artificial jellyfish (right) dubbed 'Medusoid' using rat heart...

Having roamed the seas for at least 500 million years and holding the title of the oldest multi-organ animal on the planet, jellyfish have certainly stood the test of time. So it’s probably not surprising to see various research groups looking to the gelatinous, umbrella-shaped animals for inspiration in a number of areas, including the development of ocean-going robots. Now researchers at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) looking to gain a better understanding of how biological pumps such as the heart work, have created an artificial jellyfish from rat heart muscle and silicon.  Read More

The clog-free inkjet printer nozzle uses a droplet of oil to prevent the ink from drying o...

There was a time not so long ago that my inkjet printer saw a lot of action. Nowadays, however, it can sit idle for weeks or even months before being called into service. But when it is called upon, the long break between print jobs means the print heads are usually clogged and an ink-wasting head clean needs to be performed. Taking inspiration from the human eye, researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) have developed a print nozzle that prevents the ink inside from drying out when not in use.  Read More

This biologically accurate set of robotic legs comprises simplified versions of the human ...

Moving forwards on two legs is one thing, walking with a recognizably human gait is quite another. While most humanoids have mastered the former, the latter is beyond the reach of most bipedal robots (though some are doing a good job at it) ... and there is a good reason for that. Recreating the way humans walk takes recreating the entire walking apparatus, complete with the skeletal, muscular and neural systems. That’s exactly what a group of researchers from the University of Arizona have done, creating what is reportedly the most biologically accurate set of robotic legs to ever walk the planet.  Read More

New technology based on the eye of a moth improves the quality of X-ray images without com...

To increase stealth and evade predators, the moth has evolved a remarkable eye that, rather than reflecting light, absorbs it almost completely. Engineers have mimicked its nanostructure in the past to design better solar panel coatings and antireflective surfaces, and are now using the same principle to design a thin film that will absorb radiation from X-ray machines more effectively, exposing patients to a significantly lower risk while obtaining higher quality imaging.  Read More

The EPFL UAV rights itself after a fall

Researchers from the Laboratory for Intelligent Systems at Switzerland’s EPFL federal research institute were inspired by the resilience of flying insects, and set out to replicate it in a miniature unmanned aerial vehicle. They succeeded, creating a UAV that can crash into things, fall down, then right itself and get back in the air.  Read More

The study of this marine crustacean may lead to lighter and more resistant materials that ...

The mantis shrimp is a fascinating creature that has the ability to punch its prey into submission with a club that accelerates underwater at around 10,400 g. By studying the secrets behind this formidable weapon, a Californian researcher hopes to develop an innovative, hi-tech material that is one third the weight and thickness of existing body armor.  Read More

The DASH robot, a cockroach and a gecko are all capable of running to the edge of a ramp, ...

Anyone who has tried to kill a cockroach knows just how difficult they can be to be to capture. Not only can they squeeze through very narrow gaps, but they can also instantly accelerate to a running speed of approximately 50 body lengths per second. Recently, biologists at the University of California, Berkeley realized that the insects have another escape skill at their disposal. When they get to the edge of a surface such as a table, they can hook it with their rear claws and swing around 180 degrees to land upside down on its underside – a maneuver also performed by geckos. A team of UC Berkeley researchers subsequently did what any of us would do upon gaining that knowledge, and set out to get a robot to perform the action.  Read More

A drop of liquid sits on the textured silicon surface that has arced rungs to guide the dr...

Lately we’re hearing more and more about tiny medical and environmental diagnostic devices, that can perform a variety of tests using very small fluid samples. Working with such small samples does present a challenge, however – how do you thoroughly mix tiny amounts of different fluids, or wrangle individual drops for analysis? According to a team of scientists from the University of Washington, the answer lies in the lotus leaf.  Read More

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