The evolution and adaptations of animals has become an ever growing fascination within science. Scientists are realising that animals are an invaluable source of knowledge and design. It is most likely that things we are trying to achieve have already been created in one way or another and so we are turning to nature for the answers!
Here are our Zoo 4 You top 5 animal inspired technologies;
1.) The Cockroach
Who knew that cockroaches could be so crucial in the development of life changing surgery? Currently artificial hearts are something that are used only on a temporary basis. They tend to be used until a donor of a real heart has been found. Specialists are hoping that the design of a cockroach heart will lead the way to the future of artificial hearts.
A cockroach’s heart is made up of thirteen chambers as opposed to human hearts that are made up of four chambers. The cockroach’s heart pumps blood in stages which reduces the build-up of pressure. It also means that if one of the chambers fails, the situation is not fatal nor life threatening as the other chambers continue to work.
This design of the cockroach heart could deal with some of the main issues with current artificial hearts. At the moment artificial hearts do not seem to be appropriate for long term and one of the major issues with them is that when they fail, they fail causing fatal consequences.
However, specialists are hoping that by designing the artificial heart on that of a cockroach’s, they will be able to eliminate this flaw, allowing patients to live long term with an artificial heart. This design of heart also prevents excessive blood recirculation, stagnation and mechanical trauma, three very key factors in aiding this technology.
This design of artificial heart is now ready for clinical trials. They have shown to be successful within frogs and are now ready to be tested on goats. To read more about the artificial heart based on the cockroach please click here.
2.) The Humpback Whale
Humpback whales have led to a major discovery in aerodynamics. For years scientists and technology has believed that turbines should be completely flat and smooth in order to be most efficient. Now it would appear as though this concept is being disproved!
Experts studying Humpback whales were curious as to how such a large animal can be so agile in the water. Well the answer, bumpy fins! The leading edge of a Humpback whales fin is bumpy, these bumps are called Tubercles. These tubercles channel the water into smaller areas resulting in a higher speed and increasing the lift.
While trialling the design of the whale fin on turbines, the discoveries were incredible. Interestingly, the turbines designed on whale fins were able to produce more power at low speeds and could perform better at higher speeds. This new design not only makes the turbines more efficient but it also makes them quieter. Flat smooth blades allow the air to run down the length of the blade and releases it at the end creating a noise which this new design seems to reduce.
Other experiments have shown that the whale fin design can allow a plane to gain a 40 percent steeper height before stalling and losing altitude. Stalling is a process where there is not enough air flowing over the surface of the wings but channelling the air through a tubercle concept makes a huge difference!
3.) The Shark (Part 1)
Whilst studying sharks it had been noted that unlike most other large sea creatures they do not seem to gather algae and other bacteria on their skin, but amazingly, their skin is smooth and clear. Yet, this was a relatively perplexing finding because bacteria thrives best on smooth surfaces. Scientists found that shark’s skin is made up of Dermal Denticles, meaning that they have diamond shaped, teeth like scales that interlock. They discovered that it is the way that their skin is made up that stops bacteria from settling on the surface. So if you were to stroke a shark from its head to its fin it would be completely smooth, however, if you were to stroke it from fin to head you would find the texture to be much like sandpaper!
A company called Sharklet Technologies have managed to replicate the design of shark’s skin on a plastic film and this could also be designed into metal objects. So far the product has been successful in preventing bacteria from settling on the surface.
Furthermore, scientists are hopeful that this product would be resilient in preventing germs long term as it does not kill the germs. Many types of bacteria have evolved so much that they are becoming immune to antibiotics, but scientists believe that this wouldn’t be the case with the shark’s skin design.
Further testing needs to be done to test the longevity of the product. If it manages to stand the test of time then this could revolutionise hospital practice. For further information please click here.
4.) The Gecko
Researchers were interested in the way in which Geckos have the ability to climb pretty much any surface. They looked into the way Geckos can climb these surfaces and stick so solidly without leaving a sticky residue behind. They discovered that gecko’s feet are made up of ridges called Lamellae which are made up of hundreds of fibres called Setae and it is this which gives them their extraordinary grip.
Researchers have developed a tape based on the gecko’s feet that is better than other glues and tapes; it is stronger, can be peeled off, reused and doesn’t leave a mark. They also found that other creatures use similar adaptations to climb, much like the beetle.
The development of this research was for the production of a military robot but realistically researchers believe that this technology could be much more widespread. They have already managed to recreate this technology on a large enough scale that a man was able to climb glass! They think that if they can develop it better they could use it to search disaster zones and even in medicine. Researchers are hoping that they will be able to develop bandages and other surgical products that can easily be removed after healing without damaging the skin.
5.) The Shark (Part 2)
Scientists studying sharks were interested to know what it was about sharks that give them agility and the ability to cruise continuously without using much energy. They realised it was in fact the design of the shark’s skin. The way in which the shark’s scales are designed help it to swim through the water efficiently using much less energy.
Scientists replicated the scale design using a 3D printer. The scales were on a much larger scale than that of the shark’s skin due to the 3D printer not being able to print that finely.
Despite these printing issues the product still had fantastic results. They attached the material to the paddle of a boat and found that with the shark’s skin over the paddle the speed was increased by 6.6%. They also found that the paddle was able to travel the same distance whilst using 5.9% less energy, making it much more efficient for travelling long distances. Who knew shark’s skin was so fascinating!
For more information on shark’s skin technology please click here.