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.
As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists are still trying to develop better ways of removing oil from water
. Now, researchers at The Ohio State University believe that they may be onto something. They've developed a stainless steel mesh that allows water to pass through, but that stops oil.
If you've ever watched a flying bird weaving its way through a forest, you may have wondered how it could do so without hitting its wings on the trees. Well, birds actually do
hit trees with their wings. Unlike the rigid wings of an aircraft, however, birds' wings simply fold back under impact, then immediately fold open again to maintain flight. Now, scientists from Stanford University have developed wings for flapping-wing drones that do the same thing.
Designing a robot that can convincingly move like a member of the animal kingdom is a much more difficult prospect than merely building something that has the outward appearance of one. Some of the best examples of both have come from the engineers at Festo, including a herring gull named SmartBird
and a bit of a bounder known as the BionicKangaroo
. As a taste of things to come at next month's Hannover Messe trade show in Germany, the company has now revealed three more biomimetic creations: a small colony of ants, a gripper modeled on a chameleon's tongue and some fine flyers in the shape of some big blue butterflies.
We've already heard about two
in which scientists are developing camouflage systems inspired by squids' color-changing skin. If they're successful, the result could be military clothing that can change its coloration to match the environment. It's an intriguing idea, although it presumably still wouldn't allow soldiers to avoid detection by infrared cameras at night. Now, however, researchers from the University of California at Irvine are developed a stick-on covering that could let them do so.
In various types of manufacturing, parts are robotically picked and placed using graspers or suction cups. The former can damage fragile items, however, while the latter won't work in vacuums or on rough surfaces. That's why scientists from Germany's Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) have developed – well, a new material. It utilizes the same principle as sticky gecko feet
, but its gripping quality can be switched on and off as needed.
Usually when we hear about the properties of geckos being applied to human technology, it's the reptiles' sticky feet
that are in question. Now, however, scientists in Australia are looking at the manner in which a particular type of gecko is able to stay clean. Their findings could pave the way for things like water-repelling electronics, or clothes that never need washing.
On most fish, their hard, overlapping scales provide considerable protection against pokes and cuts. Because those independently-moving scales are each attached to a flexible underlying skin, however, the fish are still able to easily twist and turn their bodies. Scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and MIT are now attempting to copy that structure, to develop flexible-yet-effective armor for humans.
The humble limpet has been receiving a lot of press lately, as scientists recently determined that the material from which its teeth are made is officially the world's strongest natural material
. Now, an MIT/Harvard study suggests that a specific type of limpet's shell
may hold the key to transparent displays that require no internal light source.