[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][text_output]Spray that prevents infection, robots used during keyhole surgery, package that either keeps food moist, or keeps moisture out.
Frogs provide biological inspiration for new ideas and innovations. Their way of solving problems have been developed throughout history and their solutions are providing scientists, designers, architects and engineers with both inspiration to new innovations and solutions to problems.
Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that is gradually becoming more popular. The focus is on finding sustainable solutions to human challenges by using nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Amazingly frogs have already solved many of the problems that we are facing today. Biomimicry is an emerging discipline with university courses and programmes that highlights the world of biology and its application to human design.
How would you design a robot that can hold on to wet and slippery surface when it is vertical or upside down? The robot should also release its grip without harming the surface. Watch the way a tree frog cling securely to branches and leaves, even hanging upside down, in wet and muddy conditions.
The feet of tree frogs was used by researchers at the University of Leeds as an inspiration for the design of a tiny robot to be used during keyhole surgeries. Keyhole surgeries are carried out through a very tiny opening and require a special instrument allowing surgeons to see what they are doing on a real-time video feed. The tiny robot was designed to move across the wet and slippery internal abdominal wall of a patient.
The feet of a tree frog has hexagonal patterns and when the hexagonal toe pads get in contact with a wet surface they build capillary bridges. As a result a strong adhesion force is formed. The bio-inspired prototype for a robot has four feet with each foot being able to hold a maximum of approximately 15 grams for each square centimetre in contact with a slippery surface.
What if you could use the architectural feat of building floating foam nests to prevent infection?
There are several different types of foam-nesting frogs, for example, the túngara frogs, Engystomops pustulosus. These frogs live in tropical or subtropical climates. The meringue-like structures help the frogs protect their young even under the harshest of conditions. The nests look delicate but they are tough structures. The foam structures are exposed to full sunlight, high temperature and infections.
The tadpoles leave the structure after four days but the the nests can lasts for up to two weeks if there are no eggs in them. The nests allow the frogs to lay their eggs out of water. Many species suspend their nests in vegetation, other build nests that float on the water surface, and some lay them in underground burrows.
Understanding how this nest building process takes place can help scientists to make artificial foam in the laboratory. The foam would be resistant to bacterial and microbial damage and burn victims could use it to spray on their wounds to prevent infection. The same principles could also be used to design package that retains moisture or keeps moisture out.
Frogs dive underwater to hunt for prey and if you watch them closely you can see that they stay attached to surfaces by trapping air bubbles at their feet. These bubbles help the frog to stay in place. Graphene is a material that is used in applications in electronics or photonics, for example, optoelectronic modulators and transistors. The way bubbles of air provide a structure for capillary action to hold the frog in place has inspired scientist to try to use a similar process in the production of graphene. Instead of using the usual process they induced bubbles at the surface between a copper foil and a silicon wafer substrate. By using this approach the scientists could grow graphene and transfer it onto another material.
Finally, frogs inspire designers and there are cars with big frog’s eyes, trucks inspired by poison-dart frogs, cyclists wearing frog helmets on a frog bicycles. Hope these ideas inspire you to look at frogs with new eyes, and maybe inspire you to invent something.
By Åsa Jomård
[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][text_output]Photo above: Tungara frog (Engystomops pustulosus) calling. © Lena Wild
Photo below: Tree frog. © iClipart[/text_output]
Åsa Jomård is a freelance writer. She is the author of educational material in Psychology for college students. She studied Psychology, Sport Psychology, Pedagogics, English Literature, Reading, and Reading and Learning Disability. Her thesis Possible Solutions to Possible Problems concerned cognitive development in children. She is passionate about the environment and using biomimicry to explore new ways in which nature’s successes can inspire the development of innovations.
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