Discovery Staff

Inspiring Animals

By: Discovery Staff Posted:
Sometimes to find the best solution to a problem you just have to look at the world around you; scientists and engineers are looking to the evolutionary successes of animals as inspiration for their latest innovations in technology. It's amazing what they've found!  

Poison Dart Frogs Inspire a New Way to De-Ice Planes
At Arizona State University, a bi-layer skin is being created to prevent rain from freezing to Airplanes while mimicking the technique of poison secretion that the Poison Dart Frog uses.
The skin is designed with two layers, the inner layer being made of anti-freeze, and the outer a porous Hydrophobic material that repels rain.  If the rain freezes – rendering the outer layer useless – the inner layer’s anti-freeze melts it, and sends it flying away.

Squid-like Camo Stickers make Soldiers Invisible
The University of California at Irvine has turned to squid skin as inspiration for “invisibility stickers” that may allow soldiers to become undetectable to infrared cameras. 
Like the squid’s ability to disguise itself as any surface in its environment, the newly designed flexible layer of camo ‘skin’ will adapt to match the soldiers’ infrared reflectance to their background, hiding their body heat from enemy view.

Ultracane uses Echolocation to Guide the Blind
Echolocation is a tool used by bats and dolphins alike to guide them through the air and the water.  Engineers have used this trait to invent the Ultracane – an innovative new stick for the blind.
The UltraCane emits ultrasonic waves that cause the cane to vibrate when it is nearing an object, allowing the handler to “see” objects that are in front of them – either on the ground or overhead. 

Gripping Modelled on a Chameleon’s Tongue
The Chameleon is famous for its long tongue that snaps up flies in a heartbeat, so Festo has designed a new grip tool in its honour.  The FlexShapeGripper uses the grip technique found on the tip of a Chameleon’s tongue to pick up objects with an elastic silicone cap. 
The suggested use for this efficient picker-upper is as a factory machine (it’s more nimble than the typical robot), but down the line it could even be seen in prosthetic hand development.

Check out these innovations and other tech on Daily Planet week nights at 7pm EST!