Biomimesis: to mimic life, to imitate biological systems
Research in biomimetics is aimed at developing a new class of biologically inspired robots that exhibit much greater robustness in performance in unstructured environments than today's robots. This new class of robots will be substantially more compliant and stable, and will take advantages of new developments in materials, fabrication technologies, sensors, and actuators.
Applications will include autonomous or semi-autonomous tasks; such as, reconnaissance and de-mining for small, insect-like robots and human interaction tasks at a larger scale. The research involves a close collaboration among robotics and physiology researchers at several universities in the U.S. and globally. The purpose is to study the natural processes as a starting point, gain insights, and then improve on their performances with new technological applications.
Biomimetic robots borrow their structure and senses from animals
The subject matter of biomimetics is known by several names: bionics, biognosis, etc. Basically it's the concept of taking ideas from nature and implementing them in another technology; such as, engineering, design, computing, etc. The concept is very old; for example, the Chinese wanted to make artificial silk 3,000 years ago; "Daedalus' wings" was one of the early design failures; however, the implementation of this technology is being seen in more and more areas of scientific experimentation.
- The speed, power, and size of computers mean we can create programs that replicate neurophysiological brain functions.
- Reverse engineering (tracking a result through its process to its source) means that a physical function exists.
- To picture a biomimetic robot, one might consider its method of locomotion.
- Such a robot would never have wheels on an axle, but might wriggle like a worm or hop like a bird.
- It might have sensory "organs," like an instrument that measure temperature.
- Its abilities will probably be something humans aren't adept at, like locating underwater mines, and do it faster.
- The most well-known early biomimetic robots were a cockroach and a lobster.
- Two university research teams advanced in robotics developed these robots to navigate their natural environments consisting of a ground with obstacles and a sloshy ocean bay, respectively.
- The "sprawl hexapod" had six tall legs that were similar the kinds of steps used by the cockroach.
- This allowed it to move over uneven ground without tipping over or without damage to its body.
- "Robo-lobster" evenly navigated the sea floor and tracked scents to their sources, even through rough water conditions.
- Ultimately, an ideal biomimetic robot will perform its tasks autonomously, without human control.
- It will be able to move, gather sensory information, interact with its environment, and make decisions all by itself.
An example of biomimetics includes genetically engineered high-strength silk fibers. These fibers, which are about 5 microns in diameter, are 100-percent tougher than Kevlar aramid fibers.
Related topics about "technology":
Geographic Information System (GIS): Index;
Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS);
Global Positioning System (GPS);