The seahorse might ‘hold’ the answer to better, tougher and more coordinated robots in the future.
A team of researchers were inspired by the strangely unique square tail of the seahorse to potential build robots that could perform surgical procedures, aid in search and rescue operators or have a multitude of other industrial uses.
The square tail of the seahorse led researchers on a path to replicate the strength and flexibility of the tail of the fascinating Hippocampus. By utilizing 3D printing, they were able to build both cylindrical and square-structured prototypes.
“We found that this square architecture provides adequate dexterity and a tough resistance to predators, but also that it tends to snap naturally back into place once it’s been twisted and deformed,” said co-author Ross Hatton, an assistant engineering professor at Oregon State University. “This could be very useful for robotics applications that need to be strong, but also energy-efficient and able to bend and twist in tight spaces.”
After running tests of the two designs side-by-side, the team discovered the square structures slide past each other when crushing pressure is applied, protecting the vertebral column from being broken, then slide back into place. Another find was the square models provided more contact points when grasping an object providing a stronger hold.