Ants have a reputation as the hard workers of the animal kingdom, in part because they can lug around impressively heavy loads with respect to their size. But tiny new robots being developed at Stanford University are giving them a run for their money with the ability to pull up to 1,800 times their own weight.
When surgeons are trying to operate on hard-to-reach organs, they'll
often have to make multiple incisions to get at the area from different
angles, or use tools such as retractors to pull other tissue out of the
way. A team of researchers from Italy's Sant'Anna School of Advanced
Studies, however, is developing an alternative – a flexible octopus arm-inspired tool that can squirm its way between organs, then hold them back while simultaneously operating.
The bombardier beetle has a unique defensive mechanism. It induces a chemical explosion inside its shell to create a boiling, toxic liquid which it sprays at its aggressor. Now researchers in the US have discovered how it does this, and they hope that further study of the conditions inside the beetle that allow it to produce the jet without harming itself may inform real world technologies.
Mussels have an incredible ability to cling to wet surfaces. It's an ability that scientists are trying to replicate
for use in man-made adhesives. That adhesion can't be turned on and off
as needed, however, limiting its potential applications. That's where
the Northern clingfish comes in. It can suck onto rough, slimy surfaces,
supporting up to 150 times its own body weight when lifted. That said,
it can also just let go and swim away whenever it wants. Scientists from
the University of Washington now understand how it's able to do so, and
are looking at applying the principle to fields such as surgery and
If you've ever seen a bat in flight, then you'll know how quickly and
precisely they can maneuver. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University,
Columbia University and the University of Maryland have now uncovered
one of the key factors that allows them to do so – and it could have
applications in the design of aircraft.