Have you ever stomped a roach, just to have it skitter away unscathed? Now scientists know how they do that, and how to put it to good use. (Nat Geo Phenomena blog)
Browse through other ways scientists are studying nature for the latest technology.
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- Take a look at the video above, from the good folks at UC Berkeley. Why are cockroaches are so hard to squish? (Not that we at Nat Geo would ever condone such a thing . . .)
- Their hard exoskeleton is not a single shell, but an intricately jointed one. The overlapping chitin plates fold like origami, and allow the bug to shrink to just a quarter of its size.
- The flexibility of the plating allows cockroaches to scuttle around even at a quarter of their size by using their belly and extended legs. Researchers compare this movement to “body friction during undulatory swimming . . . by sandfish lizards and the thrust produced by flipper-driven surface locomotion by sea turtle hatchlings.” For reference: Here’s a sandfish and here are turtle hatchlings.
- What is biomimicry or biomimetics?
- Biomimicry is the process of using models, systems, and elements of nature as a guide for developing new technology.
- CRAM (Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms) is a biomimetic “soft robot” based on the new cockroach research. How was CRAM designed with a cockroach in mind? Cue the video to about 1:20 for some help.
- Like a cockroach, CRAM has a segmented, pliable shell.
- Like a cockroach, CRAM is able to move when compressed by using other parts of its legs, instead of its feet.
- How might CRAM be used?
- The most obvious answer is for search-and-rescue operations. According to Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University, CRAM is ideal for “pancake collapses where you have survivable voids but they’re really deep” much like the one that recently occurred during an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, killing at least 46 people.
- Keep in mind, “there’s a lot more to be done on these CRAM bots—controlling their movement, adding sensors, establishing some way for them to transmit data back to rescue workers—before they can be deployed in a real emergency.”
Nat Geo: WATCH: Amazing Video Reveals Why Roaches Are So Hard to Squish
Berkeley News: Cockroach robots to the rescue!
(extra credit!) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Cockroaches traverse crevices, crawl rapidly in confined spaces, and inspire a soft, legged robot
UC Berkeley: Poly-PEDAL Lab (great space to crawl around!)
Nat Geo: Posts from the Biomimicry Institute
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