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Showing posts from March, 2017

Ants, bees, and octopuses: bioinspired robotics, drones, and smart structures

Can you imagine a world in which our crops and flowers are pollinated by autonomous drones the size of bees? Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology believe this reality could be closer than we may think due to staggering declines in bee populations around the world.
Eijiro Miyako and his colleagues have used the principle of cross-pollination to engineer a bioinspired robotic pollinator, which can mimic the functionality of real bees, reports an article published in Science Direct. Measuring 4 centimeters wide and weighing a mere 15 grams, each drone is equipped with a strip of horsehair coated in an iconic liquid gel, allowing it to pick up pollen from one flower and deposit it in another.
"GPS, high-resolution cameras and artificial intelligence will be required for the drones to independently track their way between flowers and land on them correctly, " said Miyako.

While other methods sometimes prove to be more practic…

Celebrating women in optics and photonics: stories to inspire

International Women's Day has been observed on 8 March for more than 100 years, and Women's History Month is celebrated variously in March (Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and October (Canada) for nearly as long. (See some of that history via The Huffington Post.)
Women in optics are celebrated year-round in a planner produced by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The 2017 version features comments from 28 women in multidisciplinary fields within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), sharing their inspirational stories, crediting influential mentors and role models, and lending valuable advice to others considering careers in STEM. (The planner is distributed at no charge; to get yours, email CustomerService at SPIE.org.)
Industries and disciplines falling under the umbrella of STEM have often proven to be challenging environments for women. In addition to celebrating women's accomplishments in the annual pl…

Temperature-sensitive technology for artificial skins: smart structures

Researchers around the world are in the midst of developing artificial skins essential to modern robotics, prosthetic limbs, and other applications. Designed to emulate the most practical properties of human skin, some artificial skin technologies have managed to surpass the sensory capabilities of living tissues. One such technology is a temperature-sensitive electronic film, which has paralleled the record performance of the world's most sensitive heat-detecting organism, the Crotalinae, commonly know as the pit viper.

While in the process of fabricating materials for synthetic wood, a team of researchers discovered a film made of pectin, a sugar molecule responsible for the temperature sensitivity in plants, could exhibit an electrical response to changes in temperature when enriched with positively-charged calcium ions. This finding led to the study "Biomimetic temperature-sensing layer for artificial skins" by senior author Chiara Daraio, et al., which was publishe…