Cockroaches inspire creation of sprinting robots
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Cockroaches inspire creation of sprinting robots

Tuesday, 29 December 2009, 08:53 Hrs   |    2 Comments
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Washington: Now, cockroach is inspiring researchers to build robots capable of sprinting effortlessly over rough terrain.

"Humans can run, but frankly our capabilities are nothing compared to what insects and some other animals can do," said John Schmitt, assistant professor at the Oregon State University (OSU) School of Mechanical Engineering, who led the project.

"Cockroaches are incredible. They can run fast, turn on a dime, move easily over rough terrain, and react to perturbations faster than a nerve impulse can travel," Schmitt said.

If successful, Schmitt said, running robots could serve valuable roles in difficult jobs, such as military operations, law enforcement or space exploration.

Within certain limitations, Schmitt said, cockroaches don't even have to think about running - they just do it, with muscle action that is instinctive and doesn't require reflex control.

OSU researchers are trying to identify some of the basic biological and mechanical principles that allow certain animals to run so well and effortlessly.

A guinea hen, for instance, can change the length and angle of its spring-like legs to almost automatically adjust to an unexpected change in a ground surface as much as 40 percent of its hip height.

That would be like a human running at full speed, stepping into a 16-inch-deep hole and never missing a beat.

In a computer model, the researchers have created a concept that would allow a running robot to recover from a change in ground surface almost as well as a guinea hen.

They are studying how the interplay of concepts such as energy storage and expenditure, sensor and feedback requirements, and leg angles can produce recovery from such perturbations, said an OSU release.

And some day, a robot - instead of a human - might be used to run into a dangerous area, check things out and report back for further instructions.

The findings were published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
Source: IANS
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1: The research by John Schmitt to biomimic Cockroaches to create sprinting robots is quite interesting and innovative.

In her famous book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature , Janine Benyus outlines Biomimicry and the wonders it created in Modern science and technology:
Over the last five years, Janine Benyus has created a real stir in the United States. Both businesses and the academic community have responded with enthusiasm to the idea that we should be learning from Nature in a much smarter way to help fashion solutions to some of today’s most pressing ecological challenges. Animals plants and microbes have been perfecting their wares for 3.8 billion years. After all this R&D nature knows what works what is appropriate and what lasts. What if we humans began looking over nature’s shoulder for ideas about how to meet our needs without compromising the planet?

Janine’s work introduces a revolutionary field of science that is studying nature’s best ideas and then imitating these designs and processes to solve significant human problems. It can help us grow food like a prairie, harness solar energy like a leaf make materials like a spider computer like a cell or run a business like a redwood forest.
How would a biomimetic revolution come about? Janine believes it could be achieved by systematically interviewing the Earth’s flora and fauna and then providing engineers architects and designers with the specs from biology’s best ideas. Biologists and inventors could then collaborate to use nature as a model. Once we see nature as model measure and mentor the rational for preserving life’s diversity becomes self evident.

Biomimicry (from bios meaning life and mimesis meaning to imitate) is a new science that studies nature s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The conscious emulation of life s genius is a survival strategy for the human race a path to a sustainable future. The more our world looks and functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours but not ours alone. Biomimics are looking to nature for specific advice: How will we grow our food? How will we harness energy . How will we make our materials? How will we keep ourselves healthy? How will we store what we learn? How will we conduct business without drawing down nature's capital?
Biological knowledge is doubling every five years, growing like a pointillist painting toward a recognisable whole. For the first time in history, we have the instruments-the scopes and satellites-to feel the shiver of a neuron in thought or watch in colour as a star is born. When we combine this intensified gaze with the sheer amount of scientific knowledge coming into focus, we suddenly have the capacity to mimic nature like never before. Doing it nature's way has the potential to change the way we grow food make materials harness energy heal ourselves store information and conduct business. In each case nature would be model measure and mentor.
Nature as model We would manufacture the way animals and plants do, using sun and simple compounds to produce totally biodegradable fibres ceramics plastics and chemicals. Our farms modelled on prairies would be self-fertilising and pest-resistant. To find new drugs or crops, we would consult animals and insects that have used plants for millions of years to keep themselves healthy and nourished. Even computing would take its cue from nature with software that evolves solutions and hardware that uses the lock and key paradigm to compute by touch. In each case, nature would provide the models: solar cells copied from leaves steely fibres woven spider-style shatterproof ceramics drawn from mother of pearl cancer cures compliments of chimpanzees perennial grains inspired by tallgrass computers that signal like cells and a closed-loop economy that takes its lessons from redwoods coral reefs and oak hickory forests.

Nature as measure Beside providing the model, nature would also provide the measure-we would look to nature as a standard against which to judge the rightness of our innovations. Are they life promoting . Do they fit in. Will they last as long as is needed and no longer
Nature as mentor Finally our relationship with nature would also change. Instead of seeing nature as a source of raw materials, we would see nature as a source of ideas, as a mentor. This would change everything ushering in a new era based not on what we can extract from nature but on what we can learn from her.
When we view nature as a source of ideas instead of goods the rationale for protecting wild species and their habitats becomes self-evident. To have more people realise this is Janine's fondest hope. In the end Janine is confident that biomimicry's greatest legacy will be more than a stronger fibre or a new drug. It will be gratitude, and from this, an ardent desire to protect the genius that surrounds us.
Biomimicry in Practice
Natural Adhesives (The Story of Velcro)
In the 1940's, Swiss inventor George de Mestral found that, upon returning home for a walk with his dog one day his pants and the canine's fur were covered with cockleburs. This sparked his interest into how nature performed in such a way he studied the burs under a microscope, observing their natural hook-like shape, which ultimately led to the design of the popular adhesive material, Velcro. Velcro is a two-sided fastener - one side with stiff hooks like the burrs and the other side with the soft loops like the fabric of his pants. The result was VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners named for the French words velour and crochet.

Molecular-sized light sponges inspired by leaves
The company Dyesol has developed a new solar energy technology that mimics photosynthesis, the method plants use to draw energy from the sun. Artificial photosynthesis is based on the concept of a dye analogous to chlorophyll absorbing light and thus generating electrons which enter the conduction band of a high surface area semiconductor film and further move through an external circuit thus converting light into green power.

Carbon neutral fuel from Termite guts!
Nobel Laureate Steven Chu is leading research into the way termite guts process food the research could lead to pollution free energy generation. To the termite carbon-neutral energy supply has already been solved. Termite guts take indigestible cellulose which makes up the bulk of all plant material grown on earth and convert it to ethanol, a common fuel used in today's industrial society.

A moth's eye-view
Autotype, one of the world s leading developers and manufacturers of film and chemical products, has launched a revolutionary new anti-reflective anti glare film that has been inspired from detailed research into the eye structure of night flying moths. Called MothEye Anti-Reflective the new film has been designed for use in a wide range of applications, including flat panel displays, touch screen interfaces electroluminescent lamps and lenses for mobile phones and PDAs and can even be processed using the film insert moulding process.

Farming to Fit the Land
Mono agriculture or the plantation of crops with only one species of plant seed legume fruit vegetable, are prone to catastrophic impacts from extreme ecological events such as hail, drought pests or soil erosion. Natural agriculture for example prairie grasslands or forests - handle extreme ecological events extremely well due to the perennial root system which holds down the soil and the mixture of species which guards against pest outbreaks.

The Blue Mussel and 'sticking' to the road
Researchers at Perdue University have discovered potential industrial applications for the natural adhesive used by saltwater mussels to stick to rocks. The mussel uses dozens of tiny filaments that stretch from the mussel to attach itself to a surface - the mussel uses an organ called a foot to attach each filament to the surface with a small deposit of glue until it is secure enough to withstand pulling forces from the external environment i.e. tides.

Termite mounds and natural passive cooling
The Eastgate Complex, located in Harare Zimbabwe is a 324,000 square-foot commercial/office and shopping complex, the largest in the country. The building is designed with two nine story office buildings and a glazed atrium amazingly enough in Zimbabwe s hot climate the buildings primary cooling system is naturally ventilated. Engineers from environmental engineering firm Arup led by Mick Pearce, sought inspiration for the naturally ventilated marvel from termite mounds - these creatures require their home to remain at an exact temperature of 87 degrees Fahrenheit throughout a 24 hour daily temperature range of 35-104 degrees Fahrenheit (night and day respectively).

Self-cleaning paint from the lotus flower
Germany company Sto AG have developed a biomimicry inspired exterior coating with a water-repellant surface based on that of the lotus leaf. Developed by Professor Wilhem Barthlott from the University of Bonn in Germany , his discovery began when looking for environmentally benign alternatives to toxic cleaning detergents to reduce environmental impacts, having asked the question How does nature clean surfaces. It became obvious that nature doesn t use detergents at all instead it designs self cleaning surfaces with hydrophobic properties.

Bullet Trains and birds
The 500-Series Shinkansen Japanese bullet train that runs between Tokyo and Hakata is one of the fastest trains in the world. The challenge for the design of the Shinkansen was how to make it run quietly learning that the owl family is the most silent and stealthy fliers of all birds, the Shinkansen design team discovered the bird's secret in its wing plumage. Another problem to be overcome was the noise occurring from tunnel exiting looking into nature for a solution to the sudden changes in air resistance creating such noise, the design team came across the kingfisher bird. The kingfisher s specially designed beak enables it to dive from air to water (low to high resistance mediums respectively) without splashing. Using computer modeling techniques to determine what style nose for the Shinkansen would reduce sonic-booms in tunnels, it revealed the kingfisher beak shape to be the most ideal shape.

Sea-going vehicles of the future
Despite engineers best efforts in sea-going underwater vehicles, the traditional submersible - submarines - are typically slow, inefficient and lumbering with propeller or water jet propulsion systems that experience difficulty working in waters cased with seaweed and debris. Much can be learned from marine life - after all it s their home! Understanding the mechanics and fluid dynamics of fish can have significant implications for the design of super efficient and agile sea going submersible technology. The tuna for example is a fast and agile fish that can maintain relatively fast speeds over long distances.

Pax Impeller
Rotor technology-fan blades mixers propellers developed by PAX Scientific Inc of San Rafael California is modeled on streamlined shapes found in nature. Using these shapes, the company's biomimetic inventions demonstrate remarkable improvements in energy efficiency and productivity with significant reductions in noise. A recent breakthrough is a car radiator fan that cools better at significantly less power improving fuel efficiency and also reducing the every-increasing load on car batteries.

Water pollution clean up - photozymes
Natural enzymes in water, in the presence of light have the remarkable ability to attract particular kinds of compounds for selective chemical reactions. They have remarkable catalytic properties, created and synthesised by living organisms from mixtures of hydrophilic (water-attracting) and hydrophobic (water-repelling) amino acids. Inspired by the efficient (often 100% yield) chemical properties of the enzyme, researchers have developed the photozyme - a bio-inspired synthetic molecule that mimicks the solar antennae in green leaves to perform sun-powered chemistry in water.

Water capturing technologies from the Namibian Beetle
Recent experiments in South Africa are successfully applying water harvesting technology - capturing fog condensation - by mimicking the Namibian fog beetle. The Namibia fog beetle collects its daily water needs by making its way to the top of a sand dune, where he turns his body into the wind and collects on its back fog condensation which is then directed to and collected in its mouth. Based on the water-harvesting activities of the beetle the fog collection technologies for local communities in South Africa is basic - large vertical shade nets are erected in high areas, and as fog blows through the nets tiny water droplets are deposited. Eventually the accumulation of these water deposits creates large droplets which run down the net into gutters attached at the bottom of the net (analogous to the Namibia beetle). Water is then channeled into reservoirs to the community.

Working with nature to harness its own powerful ecological processes Biolytix has been able to dramatically reduce the energy, materials and effort required to provide water and sanitation services using methods that can treat up to ten times the BOD5 (organic) loading of rival technologies. It can treat more wastewater than a septic tank in the same tank volume, and to a much higher secondary standard needed for safe irrigation on site. Biowater is a managed decentralized sanitation network for human settlements using Biolytix Filtration, a soil based treatment process for both wastewater and food wastes. It emulates the highly efficient breakdown that occurs in the surface layers of moist organic soils. Biowater replaces a conventional sewerage scheme with a more functional treatment network for about 50% of the conventional cost and creates a recycling potential that can cut garbage collection costs by up to 75%.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

Posted by:Dr.A.Jagadeesh - 29 Dec, 2009
2: This looks like an amazing technology..But how helpful will it be to people?
Posted by:Das - 29 Dec, 2009