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Biomimicry

A diagram and a microscope image (inset) of one of the bio-bots

If you were asked to think of something microscopic that moves quickly, chances are that sperm would be the first thing to come to mind. The tiny reproductive cells are able to swim as fast as they do thanks to their long whip-like tails, known as flagella. So, imagine how helpful it might be if sperm-like machines could be used for applications such as delivering medication to targeted areas of the body. Well, that's what scientists at the University of Illinois are in the process of making possible, with the creation of their heart cell-powered "bio-bots."  Read More

HLAA sets to an elastic consistency, and bonds with cardiac tissue

A hole in the heart is never a good thing, so when an infant is born with such a defect, doctors have to act quickly to fix it. Unfortunately, both sutures and staples can damage the heart tissue, plus it takes too long to apply sutures. Existing surgical adhesives have their own drawbacks in that they can be toxic, and they typically become unstuck in wet, dynamic environments such as the heart. As a result, infants often require subsequent operations to "replug" the hole. Now, however, scientists have developed a sort of superglue for the heart, that quickly and securely bonds patches to holes.  Read More

Bioinspired magnetically propelled helical microswimmers could deliver drugs at the right ...

If you remember the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, you'll recall how miniaturized government agents traveled through blood vessels in a tiny submarine, in their attempt remove a blood clot from a scientist's brain. Synthetic nanomotors that can do the same job have been the subject of numerous research efforts and now University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers report that they've created powerful biodegradable "microswimmers" that can deliver drugs more precisely, derived from common plants like passion fruit and wild banana.  Read More

The DelFly Explorer MAV in flight

We've seen autonomous MAVs (micro air vehicles) before, and we've seen flapping-wing MAVs before. According to a group of researchers from the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology, however, we've never seen an autonomous flapping-wing MAV – until now. Yesterday the four-man team announced its DelFly Explorer, which is described as "the first flapping wing Micro Air Vehicle that is able to fly with complete autonomy in unknown environments."  Read More

The pomelo can take a pummeling (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here's an interesting fact about the pomelo fruit: even though a mature fruit can weigh up to 2 kg (4.4 lb), they remain intact after falling from heights of over 10 meters (33 ft). The secret lies in the structure of their peel. Scientists have copied that structure, to produce a new type of aluminum composite that's stronger than straight aluminum.  Read More

Tallinn University of Technology researchers Asko Ristolainen and Taavi Salumäe watch the ...

When was the last time you heard about a sea turtle getting stuck in a shipwreck? Never, that's when. Although that's partly because stuck turtles rarely make the news, it's also due to the fact that they're relatively small and highly maneuverable. With that in mind, the European Union-funded ARROWS project has created U-CAT – a prototype robotic sunken-ship-exploring sea turtle.  Read More

New York University's flying jellyfish (Photo: Leif Ristroph)

What could be better than a jellyfish-inspired machine that swims underwater? Well, how about one that flies in the air? A group of scientists from New York University have created just such a contraption, and it could have big implications for tiny flying robots.  Read More

A 'cocktail boat' is a novel way to serve a drink inspired by natural phenomena (Photo: Mi...

Context is everything. Drinking a cocktail containing an aquatic beetle and a water lily might prove disconcerting, but in the lab of John Bush, a fluid dynamicist at MIT, and the kitchen of José Andrés, a well-known culinary innovator, these natural inspirations give rise to mixed drink magic. The aquatic beetle is transformed into an edible liquor-dispensing boat and the lily into an elegant floral “pipette” which captures and dispenses small amounts of drinks.  Read More

It glows when licked, and presumably doesn't taste like jellyfish

Late last month, as a definitely unique way of celebrating Hallowe'en, Bristol-based specialty ice cream-maker Charlie Harry Francis unveiled what is probably the world's first-ever glow-in-the-dark ice cream. His secret ingredient? Jellyfish protein.  Read More

DFKI-Bremen's iStruct uses its active spine and multi-contact feet to transition from all ...

Back in June the world got its first glimpse of the iStruct, a robot ape developed at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the University of Bremen. We predicted that in addition to the stability afforded by walking on all fours, the robot ape could feasibly stand up to free its hands for other kinds of work. Now the team has published a video that shows how their robot accomplishes this maneuver with the help of its flexible spine and sensitive feet.  Read More

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