Seahorse's Armored Tail Could Lead to Flexible, Robust Robotics

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego were seeking bioinspiration for stronger, lighter, and more flexible materials by examining the armor of animals like armadillos and alligators. Specifically, they were looking for an animal that was flexible enough to develop a design for a robotic arm. They discovered that the tail of a seahorse can be compressed to about half its size before permanent damage occurs. The tail's structure is comprised of bony, protective plates that slide past each other. The researchers plan on using 3D printing to create artificial bony plates, which would then be equipped with polymers to act as muscles. Their final goal is to build a robotic arm that would be a hybrid between hard and soft robotic devices. A strong, flexible robotic gripper could be used for medical devices and unmanned bomb detection.