Biomimetic file 121: Snakebot!

Snake inspired Sidewinder Robot Scales Sandy Slopes With Ease

extra_large-1464357572-2375-sidewinder-robot-scales-sandy-slopes-with-easephoto credit: Carnegie Mellon University snake robot on sand / Nico Zevallos and Chaohui Gong

Highlight: “Venomous sidewinder rattlesnakes traverse sandy slopes in the American Southwest quickly and smoothly. By understanding how these snakes are able to accomplish these difficult feats, researchers have developed a robot that can navigate landscapes that rolling robots can’t.”

Insight: As we are only starting the process of replicating natural traits through the use of technology, many aspects of modern robotics have already taken their inspiration from nature. In robotics walking patterns mimicking movements of various animals have significantly contributed to the field should it be through the study of small insects or large mammals such as kangaroos. Other developments of robotics have also made use of simple neuron transmission patterns studied in primitive insects (e.g. cockroaches).

From an energy point of view, when studying nature we find that adaptations have favored developments going towards solutions of lowest energy; in other words species move and behave according to optimal energy efficiency patterns. Furthermore, physical and physiological traits within species are highly adapted for specific tasks. Snakes are remarkable movers on substrates which have been a challenge for human made technologies. It was therefore logical to find inspiration for moving on sand from the rattlesnake who excels at this specific task. Perhaps the next generation of Mars robots will not move on wheels but would be Snakebots!

Sylvain Richer de Forges

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What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…


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