Biological Inspiration is the use of principles from biology to generate novel designs through integration with the best human engineering. These fundamental principles have inspired the design of new manufacturing processes, control circuits, artificial muscles, self-cleaning dry adhesives, and autonomous legged, search-and-rescue robots.
Animals have evolved simple control systems, multifunction actuators and feet that allow no surface to be an obstacle. Using these principles, many-legged robots such as RHex have been developed. These robots can function to gather information in hazardous areas, and help first responders in search and rescue functions.
Amazing feet permit creatures such as geckos to climb up walls at over one meter per second. Geckos attach by using millions of hairs on their toes. These natural nanotech tips don’t stick by glue, suction, or interlock like Velcro, but only use intermolecular forces termed van der Waals forces. The hairy toes of geckos self-clean simply by walking. The diversity of hairs among the 850 gecko species is remarkable and we can’t yet explain this variation. However, these natural designs have inspired a variety of synthetic adhesives manufactured from many different materials ranging from carbon-nanotubes to rubbery polymers. Practical applications are limitless – new band-aids, surgical instruments, tires, shoes, clothes, sporting equipment and much more.
Translating Nature’s discoveries into products requires unprecedented integration among disciplines that include biology, engineering, physics, chemistry, computer science and mathematics, as well as new collaborative models between universities and industry.
Robert J. Full is a Chancellor’s and Goldman Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology. In his 28 years at Cal, he has led a focused international effort to demonstrate the value of biological inspiration by the formation of interdisciplinary collaborations of biologists, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists from academia and industry. Professor Full is founder and director of CiBER, the Center for interdisciplinary Bio-inspiration in Education and Research, and directs the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory, which studies the Performance, Energetics and Dynamics of Animal Locomotion (PEDAL) in many-footed creatures (Poly). His fundamental discoveries in animal locomotion have inspired the design of novel neural control circuits, artificial muscles, eight autonomous legged robots and the first, synthetic self-cleaning dry adhesive named one of the top ten nanotechnology patents. Professor Full received a Presidential Young Investigator Award, was named a Mentor in the Life Sciences by the National Academy of Sciences and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His interests range from analyzing the pitching motion of a Hall of Fame baseball player to assisting computer animators make children’s movies (Pixar/Disney Bug’s Life).
This free public talk is presented as part of the monthly “Science@Cal Lecture Series” – details at http://scienceatcal.berkeley.edu/lectures