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Seahorse Tails Could Inspire New Generation of Robots



Clemson University researchers have developed a three-dimensionally-printed model based on the square prism of a seahorse tail, as well as a hypothetical cylindrical version. After pelting the models with a rubber mallet, twisting, and bending them, the researchers found the square prototype was stiffer, stronger, and more resilient than the circular one when crushed. In addition, the square prototype was about half as able to twist, a restriction that could prevent damage to the robot and give it better control when grabbing objects.

The seahorse tail could inspire new forms of armor, or lead to search-and-rescue robots that move on the ground like a snake and are able to contract to fit into tight spaces, according to Clemson professor Michael M. Porter.

The next step for the researchers is to build an actual robot using what they have learned about the seahorse. Porter notes new technologies, such as 3-D printing, enable researchers to build idealized models of natural systems to better understand different functions. "In addition, understanding the role of mechanics in these biologically inspired designs may help engineers to develop seahorse-inspired technologies for a variety of applications in robotics, defense systems, or biomedicine," Porter says.

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