Scientists in Germany have taken a leap forward in the innovative field of Animal Robotics, also known as Biomimetics, by developing a bionic kangaroo that is capable of balancing itself after jumping. Its design also allows it to save momentum from its landing, and use it in the next jump. Using electrical and pneumatic devices, working in conjunction with sophisticated coding, and custom design taken from nature herself, this feat of engineering is just the beginning of things to come.
Biomimetics, a field within Bionics, has been around since 1948 when a Swiss engineer accidentally discovered the concept of Velcro. The design was a copy of burdock seeds that have microscopic hooks on them. Today, man uses inspiration from nature to harness the power of best designs it has to offer in various applications across many industries. However, the field of Biomimetics is heading into the next phase during which we will see advances in design and application in ways we are still only starting to discover. Even though a bionic kangaroo may appear to be good only as a toy, the innovative approach to make it work is a tremendous leap in proving the potential of this technology. Even so, there is a potential toy market for the bionic kangaroo, and bionic prosthesis are already being used for war veterans returning home without limbs.
Currently, this technology is in commercial use in things such water purification plants that use aquaporins, a type of protein found in biological cells. This approach eliminates or reduces the use of hard chemicals, and leaves no byproduct behind. In the Medical field, it is being used to create artificial kidney membranes, and produce medicines that slow-release precise dosage through their chemical make-up. Spider silk, also known as Goassamer, has potential in any industry where products that are light and tough are required. There is a material called Kapton that can be used to create millions of tiny artificial hair that, if used as a sticking tape, will stick to walls just like a lizard. Once this technology is perfected, it will allow “sticking” things on the wall without the use of nail and hammer, and can be moved easily. The Lotus flower is revered in India due to its unique quality in that it grows in dirty ponds without ever getting its petals dirty. They always remain silky smooth because water, or anything, cannot stick to it. This self-cleaning mechanism is now being used to develop wall paint. Bionics is also being used in Health and Personal Care, Power, and Oil and Gas industries.
Perhaps the most anticipated application of this technology is in the field of Energy, and developing products that are resource efficient. In the last century, humanity has learned that nature’s balance, though resilient, is not infinitely sustainable. Resources are limited, and have to be used in synergy with nature to ensure long-term survival. As the technology from various fields continue to converge, the new products will inevitably take on the characteristics of their varied ancestral products. The timing of this next revolution could not happen at a better time for humans, and the planet. Meeting the needs of man will require an innovative approach, using the best research lab ever created, nature herself. The governments and businesses already recognize the potential, and the marketplace has been ready for these products for some time. As more funding is provided for Research & Development, the future looks brighter. Bionic kangaroo is proof that humanity, when faced with difficult challenges, has the potential to innovate, and leap ahead.
Opinion by Amit Singh