Biomimetic file 177: Cyborg Stingray & Soft Robotic Breakthroughs

Why scaling without adjustments leads to greater risks

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Image source: Karaghen Hudson and Michael Rosnach 

Highlight: “Scientists have built a cyborg stingray that swims around using solar-powered heart cells!… From futuristic medical devices to synthetic animals, this coin-sized critter has plenty of potential..Technically known as a “soft robot”, it is comprised of a gold skeleton that is coated with a highly flexible polymer, which is a proxy for a real stingray’s “skin”… Its internal muscles are made of 200,000 genetically-engineered, light-sensitive rat heart cells known as photo-voltaic cardiomyocytes…when these layered cells are exposed to light, they are briefly charged and they contract. This causes the polymer skin to move inwards, which allows the cyborg to swim…”

Insight: Soft robotics and its enormous potential has already been addressed in previous posts of this blog. However, what is additionally interesting to mention about this particular case study is the breakthrough of using controlled motion that combines inert with living systems.

A problem that often arises with motion is the element of scale, powering lets say a human sized object and one that is a few centimeters or even millimeters in size is a very different ball game, not to mention when we start getting into even smaller scales at the cellular or atomic levels. Yet, recently solutions to provide controlled motion even within these ranges has been slowly making successful progress.

A point to make here that applies in many life situations, should it be engineering or management projects, is that scale is often an important parameter that needs to be kept in mind and that requires a customized approach. Often this is underestimated and the common approach of scaling-up without appropriate adjustments or transformations can lead to catastrophic outcomes; in other words, it is not because something works at a smaller scale that it will necessarily (there are exceptions) work on a bigger scale and vice versa…

More information: here

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 or natural systems 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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Biomimetic file 152: new materials

New materials: reduced weight/improved strength

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Picture source: Boeing

Highlight: “Aerospace giant Boeing has developed the lightest metal structure ever, which is also one of the lightest materials known to science, called Microlattice.The entire structure is 99.99% air and is comparable to the hollow honeycomb architecture of bone. The structure is composed of a network of super thin, hollow struts. The struts are around 100 micrometers in diameter and have walls just 100 nanometers thick. It’s this design that makes Microlattice 10 times lighter than Styrofoam. However, despite it being insanely light, it is also extremely strong.”

Insight: While our senses mislead us to think that we live in a three dimensional space, we are actually surrounded by multiple dimensions. Indeed, we only see the surface of things when in fact new dimensions start to become apparent with a closer look. For instance a simple fabric may seem like a plain colored surface but zooming in with the naked eye will start to reveal the mesh structure, zooming in further will expose inter locked fibers used to make the fabric and going down even further using technology will reveal hidden dimensions up to the molecular level and beyond.

The simple point here is that we overlook the dimensions of space including within organisms where the very fabric of living tissues and molecular structures are a great deal of inspiration in areas such as design or engineering. While some species have been studied for their behaviors, taxonomy, morphology or anatomy, very little work has looked closer into the tissue structures at different scales. Special traits in species (e.g unusual surface strength) should serve as a hint that perhaps elements of their structures could provide applied solutions…

More information: here

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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