The San Diego Zoo, one of the best-regarded zoos in the world, has spent several years promoting biomimicry and its potential benefits to the economy and various research fields. Now the zoo is really ramping up its inspired-by-nature kick, launching an entire Centre for Bioinspiration, complete with the British spelling.
A new robotic jellyfish is powered by hydrogen, and could theoretically never run out of energy as it pulses through the sea. It’s designed to work as a search and rescue or surveillance ‘bot for the U.S. Navy.
Concentrated solar power plants could get an efficiency boost inspired by flowers, according to MIT researchers. Designing solar mirrors in a spiral pattern similar to sunflower heads could reduce the space required for CSP plants and increase the amount of sunlight the mirrors collect.
Even when it starts out in a nosedive, a leaping lizard uses its tail to right itself, flinging the appendage to alter its own angular momentum and ensure it lands safely on its feet. Robots can do this, too, using controlled robotails that will guarantee a safe landing, a new study says.
For animals and animal-inspired machines, launching into flight takes lots of energy. Some animals have evolved to achieve air not by accelerating and lifting off, but by jumping and then using their wings or flaps of skin to glide — like sugar gliders, for instance, or grasshoppers. Now a new Swiss robot can do this, too.
Humanoid robots and gadget-y autonomous machines can perform lots of tasks pretty admirably. But when you have a specific need, you need a specifically-equipped robot — which can mean making modifications to existing robot archetypes, or building a specialized ‘bot designed for a sole purpose. Welcome to the age of zoobotics, in which robots are inspired not by people, or restrained by technology like in the early days of robotics. Instead, zoobotics is animal-inspired.
Plenty of people are designing robots inspired by nature’s designs, but most of them are rigid machines made of metal, plastic or polyester film. Fleet-footed robots or hoverbots are unable to bend and squish into tight spaces, but squirmy, agile ones like snakebots can’t move very fast.
A new soft-bodied silicone robot aims to change that, squirming into tight spaces with ease and covering great distances quickly, flipping out like a caterpillar under siege.
A new lifelike seagull ‘bot is one of the most realistic bio-inspired flight machines we’ve seen. SmartBird takes off, flies and lands on its own, flapping its wings and turning its head and tail to steer. It is modeled on the herring gull and its appearance and movements are uncannily similar to the real thing.
The spongy bones and tough-as-nails beaks of woodpeckers are inspiring a new generation of shock absorbers, potentially shielding airplane black boxes, football players and other valuable materials from the forces of impact.
De-bearded mussels are not only delicious — soon, they might improve medical implants. Scientists can now reproduce the sticky gloop that mussels use to anchor themselves to rocks, leading to a new breed of self-healing, waterproof elastic adhesives that can be used for underwater materials or even for biomedical applications.
Bats — you know we love ‘em — have a remarkable ability to turn, swirl and dive on a dime while in mid-flight, dodging obstacles and grabbing food from the air. Engineers would like to give robots and autonomous vehicles this ability, and they’re turning to bat ears for inspiration.
Bat Con 2010 could have been a decidedly depressing science meeting, with days full of papers discussing bat deaths from white-nose syndrome, wind turbines and killings by superstitious people. But not everything was doom-and-gloom.
Dolphins are elegant swimmers, but waterlily leaf beetle larvae take first place for the simplest stroke. The insect just arches its back to manipulate a basic physics principle that lets it glide across water. Now engineers have borrowed this technique to make a tiny boat that could autonomously patrol water reservoirs for months on just a watch battery.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.