When it comes to human phobias, snakes are frequently found toward the top of the list. But despite the negative reputation, these reptiles make up an important part of our ecosystem while exhibiting some very unique biological aspects. The way snakes move across surfaces is pretty incredible, and researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have figured out how to potentially use that feature to enhance everything from hip prostheses to computer hard disks.
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are honing the applications of a gecko-like gripping mechanism in the hope of making life a little less chaotic for those working aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The ever-inventive JPL workers have come up with a series of "astronaut anchors" for use both inside and outside the station, and have even equipped a robot with the tech, opening up the possibility of allowing it to safely operate on the exterior of the space station.
Unlike most other sea creatures, sea lions use their forelimbs
instead of a tail for propulsion. They also leave virtually no wake as
they travel through the water. With an eye towards applying this design
to human technology, George Washington University professor of
mechanical and aerospace engineering Megan Leftwich has developed a
robotic sea lion flipper.
The whiskers that help rats find their way around dingy sewers has inspired a tactile sensor that could be used for navigating all manner of dark conditions. Scientists have developed a device capable of generating images of obscured environments by monitoring both air and fluid flow, and which could find its way into biomedical applications.
Despite what our science fiction-fueled imaginations love to be
entertained with, there is more to the field of modern robotics than colossal combat machines or bionic baristas.
Some projects may seem mundane by comparison, yet the results are no
less impressive, especially the ones that enlighten through the process.
Although it took a few trial and error attempts, scientists have
finally created an insect-inspired robot that can jump off of water's
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are taking inspiration from nature in the search for new materials that could one day be used to create body armor. The study, supported by the US Air Force, focuses on the unique structure and strength of the hexagonally-scaled shell of the boxfish.
Humanity's industrial processes have a huge impact on the and, releasing harmful substances such as mercury, arsenic and lead into the water. Chinese researchers are hoping that synthetic coral that mimics the ability of the real thing to collect harmful heavy metals from water could help in the clean up effort, with tests on the effectiveness of the aluminum oxide structure so far showing promising results.
The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that's claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.
If you're enjoying a serene natural area, you might not appreciate
seeing a very techy-looking pollution-hunting robot putting along the
surface. That's why scientists at the National University of Singapore
have developed an alternative – water-quality-monitoring robots that
look like swans.
Besides simply being fascinating to watch, insect-inspired robots may
someday find use as scouts in search-and-rescue operations. In order
for them to function in such scenarios, however, they'll have to be able
to move through fields of debris. While some scientists have looked at
using sensors and algorithms that let the bots scan their surroundings
and then plot paths around obstacles, researchers at UC Berkley have
developed a much less complex but still effective approach – they've
outfitted a robotic cockroach with a streamlined shell, that lets it
just push its way through.