How Reptiles Helped Solve Problems
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks," so the saying goes.
But, it turns out, ancient creatures, like reptiles, can teach us young whippersnappers a thing or two about living on planet Earth. Certain reptiles have quite a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to potential new materials or technology.
Take the crocodile, for example.
These fantastic creatures are older than dinosaurs and have unique features that can be used to make new armor.
Each crocodile's skin is covered with a thick layer of scales that overlap and work much like the scale armor that warriors used to wear. These scales work like an organic composite layer of protection that can stiffen when hit by something hard.
By doing this, the force of an impact is spread out over a larger area, which makes it less likely that the crocodile's soft insides will be damaged. Engineers have noted this and are now making protective clothing based on the same idea.
The BMW Group, for example, hopes to create PPE to help keep their engineers safe in the workshop. This technology could be used to make armor for soldiers in the future since it is light and robust.
Interesting, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The crocodile's cousin, the gecko, is also teaching us some new tricks.
Famous for their sticky feet, geckos can scale vertical surfaces with ease. By studying how they do this in detail, engineers are attempting to produce a special tape that works on the same principle.
Geckos have adapted to take advantage of the tiny Van der Waals forces generated by millions of tiny hairs on their feet and a surface. This same principle, as engineers discovered, can readily be adapted for human use too.
The adhesive properties of "Gecko Tape" are so strong that it can support the weight of a human from a ceiling. This is interesting in and of itself, but it could find other applications in disparate industries, from building maintenance to the space industry.
Snakes, related to crocodiles and geckos, have also given us ideas for new ways to do things with robots.
By observing a variable king snake scaling various obstacles, one research team gained insights into how to make a robot perform a similar feat. With this information, engineers have been able to copy how snakes move without limbs in different situations to make special robots that look like snakes and can easily climb over different obstacles.
These innovative "snakebots" could have important applications in various environments in the future.
These breakthroughs make it increasingly apparent that humans can make important solutions to problems simply by closely observing what nature has already solved.
It is exciting to think about what else reptiles can solve for us simply by existing.