A polar bear, San Diego Zoo


Look around you - the natural world continues to fuel research into a wealth of innovative technologies.

Engineers are taking inspiration from nature to inform how humans operate in daily life, influencing everything from the houses we live in to the lenses through which we capture images.

1. Buildings inspired by the way Arctic creatures cope with inhospitable environments could soon become a reality. Scientists have studied how polar bears in San Diego Zoo retain heat when exposed to cold weather in the hope it can inform how to engineer houses to withstand very cold temperatures.

2. An animal trainer howls along with a male timber wolf in an effort to demonstrate the complex social structure of wolves. It is hoped findings can address and improve the way humans interact in industry based on the behavioural pattern of these pack animals.

3. An ant studies a lens technically inspired by is own eye. This 1cm electronic compound-eye features an array of 180 microscopic lenses covering a curved polymer base, each connected to a silicon photodetector. Potential applications for the low-resolution lens include UAVs and medical equipment.

4. Despite its unsavoury reputation among humans, this cockroach is actually contributing to an automation study that will inform future robotic locomotion. Cockroaches have evolved to efficiently traverse difficult terrain thanks to the positioning of their legs, and researchers hope this study will aid the development of robotics deployed in hostile environments such as natural disaster zones.

5. A synthetic version of the ‘beard’ of a mussel could possibly be a medical adhesive solution. Actually a protein glue, the water-resistant beard is twice as strong as traditional epoxy resins. Medical experts hope a synthetic version could become a potential adhesive to stick back together broken teeth and bones, thanks to its immune system.

6. The humble housefly is giving a unique insight to aerial-vision development thanks to a set of electrodes attached to its optic muscles. Micro UAV developers will benefit from this revolutionary research, which studies how flies use their eyes to guide their flight and how this process affects flight patterns.

7. The gecko has inspired a wealth of innovations, including the sporting and prosthetics industries, thanks to the unique gripping surface covering its feet and toes. Robotocists have replicated this surface on a robotic foot using a dry adhesive polymer and a series of hooks. The robotic limb mimics the uncurling action of a gecko’s toes, which allows it to climb walls and ceilings.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them