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Biomimicry

Drones

Bird-inspired self-folding wings could help drones recover from collisions

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. Read More

Robotics

Festo unveils robotic ants, butterflies and chameleon tongue gripper

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.Read More

Materials

Squid-inspired stickers could make soldiers invisible to infrared cameras

We've already heard about two different studies 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. Read More

Materials

Gecko feet inspire adhesion tech that can be turned on and off

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. Read More

Science

Future soldiers may be wearing fish-inspired body armor

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. Read More

Science

Underwater vehicle uses a balloon to dart like an octopus

When you inflate a balloon and then release it without tying the valve shut, it certainly shoots away quickly. Octopi utilize the same basic principle, although they suck in and then rapidly expel water. An international team of scientists have now replicated that system in a soft-bodied miniature underwater vehicle, which could pave the way for very quickly-accelerating full-size submersibles. Read More

Science

Bird-inspired pump uses teeth to move water

In most pumps, either a spinning impeller pulls liquid in and then essentially "throws" it out via centrifugal force, or a rotor draws it through using peristaltic force. After studying how birds' flapping wings use fluid dynamics to push air back while moving the animals forward, however, two scientists from New York University have developed a pump that works in yet another fashion – and it has teeth. Read More

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