As the threat of human-caused climate change looms over the environment, nature continues to inspire and drive our technological advancements. According to Evripidis Gkanias, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, nature’s solutions have evolved over billions of years, making them robust and reliable. In this article, we explore some of the fascinating technologies that have been inspired by nature and their potential impact on various sectors. From compasses mimicking insect eyes to robots that mimic the behavior of vines in fighting forest fires, these nature-based technologies have the potential to revolutionize multiple industries.
Utilizing Insect Eyes for Navigation
Insects, such as ants and bees, navigate visually by using the intensity and polarization of sunlight, making the sun’s position a crucial reference point for them. Taking inspiration from this, researchers have replicated the structure of insect eyes to develop a compass capable of estimating the sun’s location in the sky, even on cloudy days. Unlike traditional compasses that rely on Earth’s magnetic field, which can be easily disturbed by electronic noise, this light-detecting compass proves to be more accurate and reliable. With further development and funding, this innovation could lead to a compact and lightweight product capable of functioning on any planet where a significant celestial light source is visible.
Nature’s intricate web-weaving abilities have inspired scientists to develop an artificial fabric capable of collecting drinking water from morning mist. Researchers have studied the feather-legged spider’s web, which allows large water droplets to move and collect on its surface. By mass-producing this fabric, the potential for collecting water on a considerable scale becomes a reality in regions facing water scarcity. This technology could have a tremendous impact on communities struggling with access to clean water.
Growth and Adaptability of Vine-Like Robots
Taking cues from the adaptability and growth of vines, scientists have created an inflatable robot that can “grow” towards light or heat sources. Similar to how vines creep up walls or across forest floors, this tubular robot uses fluid-filled pouches to steer itself, eliminating the need for complex and expensive electronics. The potential applications for these robots are vast, including the detection of hot spots and delivery of fire suppression agents in challenging terrains. However, further developments are required to enhance their heat resistance and agility.
Scientists at the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England have discovered a way to use slimy kombucha mats to create sustainable and biodegradable “kombucha electronics.” These mats, produced through the fermentation of the popular tea-based drink, can function as electrical circuits. They possess properties similar to textiles and leather, making them lightweight, flexible, and durable. The potential applications for kombucha wearables are exciting, including the integration of sensors and electronics within the material itself. However, challenges remain in terms of durability and mass production.
Pangolins Inspire Biomedical Robots
Inspired by the unique characteristics of pangolins, researchers are developing tiny robots that could have life-saving applications in medicine. Pangolins, known for their ability to curl up in a ball, provide a design solution for delivering medicine or stopping internal bleeding in hard-to-reach parts of the human body. These robots, still in their early stages, offer the advantage of being soft and malleable, like the pangolin’s body, while also having the ability to conduct electricity. With promising potential and a low production cost, these robots could revolutionize biomedical practices.
Nature continues to inspire and guide our technological advancements, offering unique solutions to complex problems. From insect-inspired navigation to plant-like robots and sustainable electronics, the potential for integrating nature-based technologies into various industries is vast. As researchers continue to explore and push the boundaries of innovation, the future holds exciting prospects for harnessing the power of nature to create a more sustainable and advanced world.