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Biomimicry

The synthetic mother-of-pearl ceramic (left) and its natural counterpart

Although you may know it simply as the shiny iridescent stuff on the inside of mollusk shells, mother-of-pearl (or nacre) is a remarkable material. It allows those shells, which otherwise consist almost entirely of brittle calcium carbonate, to stand up to the abuses of life in the sea. Now, a team led by the Laboratoire de Synthèse et Fonctionnalisation des Céramiques (CNRS) in Paris, has copied the structure of nacre to create a ceramic material that's almost 10 times stronger than conventional ceramics.  Read More

MIT's Daniela Rus and Andrew Marchese with their sharp-turning robotic fish

Anyone who has ever tried to grab a minnow out of the water knows that it's almost impossible. Not only can they swim forward very quickly, but they can also make near-instantaneous right-angle turns, unpredictably shooting off to one side or the other in mere milliseconds. Now, scientists at MIT have replicated that capability in a soft-bodied robotic fish.  Read More

Flying snakes are actually very gifted gliders, not unlike flying squirrels (Photo: Jake S...

So first of all ... yes, flying snakes do exist. Disappointingly, though, they don't have scaly dragon-like wings. Instead, they're able to flatten out their bodies after launching themselves from tree branches, proceeding to glide through the air for up to 100 feet (30.5 m). Recently, scientists figured out why that technique works as well as it does. Their findings could have some major applications for us humans.  Read More

Illustrations of a human heart doing the left ventricular twist (left), and the Harvard mo...

When you think of a beating heart, you probably just picture it flexing in and out, sort of like a rubber ball being squeezed by an invisible hand. In fact, though, its motion is more similar to that of a dish rag being wrung out, with the top of the organ twisting in a clockwise direction while the bottom contracts counterclockwise. It's known as the left ventricular twist, and scientists have now replicated it using artificial muscles. The research could lead to better-functioning cardiac implants, among other things.  Read More

It's an exciting time to be alive if you are highly educated and capable of making a diffe...

Of all the technologies to have emerged from the digital renaissance, additive manufacturing (3D printing) has the potential to be the most disruptive. A perfect example of the way 3DP will change the way we make things will be displayed at the Geneva Motor Show this week when EDAG, the world’s largest independent engineering partner to the mobility industry, displays an example of a printed automobile. The Genesis is more a conceptual sculpture than an automobile, but it will give you a taste of what the world's leading manufacturers might be producing a decade or two from now.  Read More

A microscope image of the gecko foot-inspired tape with some of the larger dirt-simulating...

Geckos' feet are right up there with adhesive tape, when it comes to being able to stick to things. Unlike tape, however, those feet retain their adhesive qualities even after many, many uses. Now, thanks to research being conducted at Carnegie Mellon University and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, we may one day be using self-cleaning reusable gecko-inspired tape.  Read More

“Stick insects have developed an ingenious way of overcoming the conflict between attachme...

Could studying the slow moving stick insect help Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt cover 100 meters faster? Researchers at Cambridge believe it could. It's all to do with sticky toes versus hairy toes.  Read More

TERMES robots are seen as the first step towards an autonomous multi-robot system that can...

Researchers at Harvard University have taken inspiration from the swarm construction method used by termites to create TERMES. These robots are intended as the first step in a project with the ultimate goal of creating a fully automated robotic workforce that can create complex structures without the need for centralized control.  Read More

Ohio State's Carlos Castro, with an ant similar to those used in the study (Photo: The Ohi...

Though ants have long been known to carry loads many times their own weight, a new study has cast light on the extent of this strength and the mechanics responsible for it. Research conducted by a team from The Ohio State University suggests an ant can lift 5,000 times its own body weight, with its neck bearing most of the load, providing a potential blueprint for the development of much stronger robots.  Read More

The robot makes a bee-line for a red cylinder, after learning that 'red is good'

Because of bees' small size, maneuverability and almost machine-like swarm mentality, it shouldn't come as a surprise that scientists are developing tiny flying robots based on the insects. In order to navigate autonomously, however, those robots' artificial bee brains will have to be capable of identifying objects in their environment, and reacting accordingly. Well, thanks to research recently conducted in Berlin, they may soon be able to do so.  Read More

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