Animal biology is often used as an inspiration for robotics. Case in point: Cephalopods, whose distributed system of neural processing is being put to use in robotic arms. But plants can also play a role in the development of better robots. At AAAS 2011, researchers from the University of Michigan and Penn State talked about how they were designing artificial structures with the help of the Mimosa plant.
The plant’s movements are made possible by the process of osmosis. As the plant cells take in and release water, they collapse and expand, causing the plants to move and change shape. If the researchers can harness this mechanism artificially, they may one day be able to produce advanced robots capable of changing shape for increased maneuverability, or becoming rigid to grab objects. “This is really a unique concept inspired by biology,” Kon-Well Wang, chair of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Michigan, said in a press release.
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