This month, Horizon looks at the growing field of bio-inspired robotics to find out how nature is inspiring machine design. We investigate the surgical tools that mimic how octopus arms become flexible or stiff on demand, sensors based on the orientation ability of maggots, and marine robots inspired by lilypads, fish and mussels.
Animals have evolved sophisticated ways of processing sensory data to make sense of their surroundings. Now, robotics researchers are drawing inspiration from biological processes to improve the way machines handle information, perceive their surroundings, and react to stimuli.
Robotic arms inspired by the octopus could help doctors to perform new operations using keyhole surgery. By mimicking the octopus arm to transform from soft and flexible to stiff and rigid, these soft robotic tools could increase the scope for operations through small incisions.
From alternative currencies in Limburg to virus-hunters tracking down the next pandemic, there’s plenty of cutting-edge research and innovation in Belgium. For the open day of European institutions in Brussels, Horizon has gone into its archives and pulled together a list of its top articles featuring scientists in the northern European country.
How will we have enough food to feed another 2 billion people by the middle of this century without destroying our planet? Agriculture is already one of the biggest contributors to climate change. This month, we hear from scientists designing disease-resistant crops using gene editing, packing more calcium into finger millet, and resurrecting ancient crop varieties to offset the sector’s environmental impact. Plus, we hear from Dr Manoj Dora about so-called lean agriculture, which is looking to make agriculture more sustainable by eliminating waste from the production process.
Criminals who want to smuggle dangerous or illegal substances into Europe could soon find themselves foiled by a new set of high-tech anti-smuggling tools including an electronic sniffer dog and a machine that fires part of an atom at shipping containers.
An on-demand style of farming inspired by the Toyota car manufacturing lines of the 1950s could be the key to improving efficiency on farms, which would in turn lead to cheaper food in European supermarkets, according to Dr Manoj Dora from Brunel University London in the UK.
'Electronic sniffer dog' and neutron tagging among innovations.
Pre-eclampsia affects 800 000 women a year worldwide.
‘Lean’ farming could reduce waste.