In the News

Catch the latest in-roads in bio-inspired products and development.

goldman sandfish

Daniel Goldman,: Assistant Professor, School of Physics, Georgia Tech

Undulatory Swimming in Sand: Subsurface Locomotion of the Sandfish Lizard

The desert-dwelling sandfish (Scincus scincus) moves within dry sand, a material that displays solid and fluidlike behavior. High-speed x-ray imaging shows that below the surface, the lizard no longer uses limbs for propulsion but generates thrust to overcome drag by propagating an undulatory traveling wave down the body. Although viscous hydrodynamics can predict swimming speed in fluids such as water, an equivalent theory for granular drag is not available. To predict sandfish swimming speed, we developed an empirical model by measuring granular drag force on a small cylinder oriented at different angles relative to the displacement direction and summing these forces over the animal movement profile. The agreement between model and experiment implies that the noninertial swimming occurs in a frictional fluid. (Kinematics of the undulatory sandfish motion. (A) Traveling wave moving down the body of the sandfish opposite to the direction of the sandfish forward motion (sampled every 0.04 s). For each time instant, the instantaneous lateral displacement of a tracked section of the sandfish is represented in color. The black curves represent the tracked midline (for example, Figure 1E, snout tip to tail tip) of the sandfish. Image: Ryan D. Maladen, Yang Ding, Chen Li,Daniel I. Goldman)

mohan jewel

Mohan Srinivasarao: Professor, School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber Engineering at Georgia Tech

Optical & Chemical Secrets of Jeweled Beetles

"Iridescent beetles, butterflies, certain sea organisms and many birds derive their unique colors from the interaction of light with physical structures on their external surfaces. Understanding how these structures give rise to the stunning colors we see in nature could benefit the quest for miniature optical devices and photonics.” (image: Zina Deretsky, NSF)

david hu slithering

David Hu: Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech

Limbless Locomotion

Terrestrial snakes propel themselves by using a variety of techniques, including slithering by lateral undulation of the body, rectilinear progression by unilateral contraction/extension of their belly, concertina-like motion by folding the body as the pleats of an accordion, and sidewinding motion by throwing the body into a series of helices.

goldman ieee spectrum

Daniel Goldman: Assistant Professor in School of Physics at Georgia Tech

March of the Sandbots

In the April 9, 2009 issue of IEEE, Daniel Goldman, Haldun Komsuoglu, and Daniel Koditschek describe how lizards, crabs, and cockroaches are teaching robots new tricks for conquering sandy terrain in "March of the SandBots". Goldman, an assistant professor of physics at Georgia Tech, studies how the animals move their limbs, while his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania-Koditschek, an electrical engineering professor, and Komsuoglu, a postdoctoral fellow in Koditschek's lab-refine their robots' abilities to perceive and respond to their environments.


Jason Nadler: Adjunct Professor. Georgia Tech Research Institute Electro-optical Systems Laboratory

Micro Honeycomb Materials Enable New Approach to Sound Reduction

Nadler's research involves broadband acoustic absorption, a method of reducing sound that doesn't depend on frequencies or resonance. In this approach, tiny parallel tubes in porous media such as metal or ceramics create a honeycomb-like structure that traps sound regardless of frequency. Instead of resonating, sound waves plunge into the channels and dissipate through a process called viscous shear.
Viscous shear involves the interaction of a solid with a gas or other fluid. In this case, a gas - sound waves composed of compressed air - contacts a solid, the porous medium, and is weakened by the resulting friction. "It's the equivalent of propelling a little metal sphere down a rubber hose when the sphere is just a hair bigger than the rubber hose," Nadler explained. "Eventually the friction and the compressive stresses of contact with the tube would stop the sphere."

tovey model

Craig A. Tovey: Professor in ISyE and in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech

Bee Strategy Helps Servers Run More Sweetly

Bees tackle their resource allocation problem (i.e. a limited number of bees and unpredictable demand on their time and desired location) with a seamless system driven by "dances." Here's how it works: The scout bees leave the hive in search of nectar. Once they've found a promising spot, they return to the hive "dance floor" and perform a dance. The direction of the dance tells the waiting forager bees which direction to fly, the number of waggle turns conveys the distance to the flower patch; and the length conveys the sweetness of the nectar.
Tovey, a co-director of the Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Tech, and Nakrani set to work translating the bee strategy. They developed a virtual "dance floor" for a network of servers. When one server receives a user request for a certain Web site, an internal advertisement (standing in a little less colorfully for the dance) is placed on the dance floor to attract any available servers. The ad's duration depends on the demand on the site and how much revenue its users may generate. The longer an ad remains on the dance floor, the more power available servers devote to serving the Web site requests advertised.


The 2006 International Symposium for
Biologically Inspired Design in Science and Engineering

An amazing international gathering of scientists and engineers in the Spring of 2006 at Georgia Tech revealed fascinating research projects from the bio-design for aquatic propulsion, to the homeostasis of termite mounds, to the biomimetic fibers of orb-weaving spiders.


Department of Energy
EERE Solar Decathlon Team 2007

Home-O-stasis: Dynamic Equilibriums in Solar Homes of the Southeast

Headed by project managers Chris Jarrett, Ruchi Choudhary and Franca Trubiano, the latest advances in building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) will be integrated within the design of an innovative low energy house exhibiting the highest level of excellence in architectural design, construction and comfort. Building on shared research interests in ecological principles of design, building design performance, and materials research, the program managers will coordinate the interdisciplinary team with the goal of achieving substantial innovation in the research and development of solar energy housing, its technology, implementation and testing.

Project Managers:
Ruchi Choudhary (BEET & Building Performance Lab): Franca Trubiano )BEET & Design Materials Lab & Studio): Chris Jarrett (BEET & Ecological Design Studio) Faculty Advisors: Architecture: Fried Augenbroe (Building Technology): Russell Gentry )Structural, AWPL) Engineering: Ian Ferguson ( Elect. SSL Lab) Ajeet Rohatgi )UCEP, Photovoltaic Lab) Biology: Jeannette Yen (CBID) Marc Weissburg (CBID) Sustainable Technologies, Policy and Education: Carol Carmichael )ISTD) Fundraising /Marketing: Susie Briggs (ISTD) Student Leaders: Jason Brown, Huafen Hu, Phd Program

toucan toucanbeak

Engineers discover why toucan beaks are models of lightweight strength Marc A. Meyers, a materials scientist and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering, and graduate students Yasuaki Seki and Matthew S. Schneider reported that the secret to the toucan beak's lightweight strength is an unusual bio-composite. The interior of the beak is rigid "foam" made of bony fibers and drum-like membranes sandwiched between outer layers of keratin, the protein that makes up fingernails, hair, and horn.


Natural adhesive systems of marine mussels, Mytilus edulis
This illustration shows the Atlantic Blue Mussell, Mytilus edulis, and its adhesive structure–the byssus with byssal threads and byssal plaque–and includes a closer look at the byssal thread and plaque and the individual adhesive proteins with respect to a substrate surface.


Chemists are increasingly looking to Nature as a source of inspiration
The use of naturally sourced molecules in synthetic organic chemistry can provide significant benefits, either as shortcuts to complex chemical structures or to catalyse chemical reactions towards a desired end-result. One such biomolecule, vitamin B12, has a number of useful functions.

silk repair image silk spider

Silk may be able to help repair damaged nerves
"The picture shows two things: reddish coloured processors, which are the nerve fibres growing along the silk; and blue supporting cells, called Schwann cells, which are very important in supporting nerve regeneration." John Priestly, a neuroscientist from Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, London


Forest fire sensor inspired by nature
Bonn zoologists "copy" a beetle's monitoring device
Jewel beetles can "smell" the products of a fire

owl kingfisher montage

"Shinkansen Technology Learned from an Owl?"The story of Eiji Nakatsu
Japan for Sustainability newsletter, Biomimicry Interview series, the owl and the kingfisher
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Biomechanics and Hydrodynamics of jet-propelled swimming in jellyfish
Professor William Megill is a Lecturer (Asst Prof) in Biomimetics at the University of Bath, England. His PhD was in Biomechanics at the University of British Columbia. He has been working with marine mammals since 1990, interested first in dolphin and killer whale acoustics before turning to baleen whale ecology and now to physiology. He studied the ecology of blue, fin and humpback whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for several years, then moved to the west coast to study biomechanics.


The Lobster All-Sky X-ray Monitor:
The lobster is the inspiration for a new type of European X-ray telescope. The observatory is designed to have an extremely wide field of view - just as the crustacean manages with its vision. The animal achieves this using a huge array of tiny channels that focus light by reflection, rather than by bending it through lenses found in human eyes. A UK-led team is now building a similar set-up for a telescope that will sweep the sky for sudden, violent events, such as black holes swallowing stars.

image:Lobster All-Sky X-ray Monitor


Cicada Escape Response and MEMS
Escape orientation in arthropods is a highly stereotyped, quick and precise behavior based on a proper recognition of stimuli announcing imminent danger from a predator attack. The escape behavior is triggered by physical stimuli which need to be detected (air-flow, pressure, sound, vibrations, mechanical forces,…), locally amplified and filtered by specialized sense organs, transmitted, processed and integrated into a perception pattern which will control response.

fruit fly fruit fly diagram

The Control of Aerodynamic Maneuvers in Fruit Flies
Dickinson, M., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
Fruit flies alter flight direction by generating rapid, stereotyped turns, called saccades. The successful implementation of these quick turns requires a well-tuned orchestration of neural circuits, musculo-skeletal mechanics, and aerodynamic forces. The changes in wing motion required to accomplish a saccade are quite subtle, as dictated by the inertial dynamics of the fly's body. A fly first generates torque to begin accelerating in the intended direction, but then must quickly create counter-torque to decelerate. Several lines of evidence suggest that the initial turn is initiated by visual expansion, whereas the subsequent counter-turn is triggered by the gyroscopic halteres. This integrated analysis indicates how the functional organization of neural circuits controlling behavior is rigidly constrained by the physical interaction between an animal and the external world. Also, related articles (at least 100).

bluegill bluegilldia

Median fin function in bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus- streamwise vortex structure during steady swimming Eric D. Tytell: Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

robot 1 snail

MIT's RoboSnails model novel movements
The humble snail, trailed by its ribbon of slime, now has its first robotic counterpart in research at MIT that could lead to new forms of locomotion for future machines.

  MIT article | learn more

Richard Bonser and keratin properties Feather keratin occurs in a 'b-sheet' configuration which is differs from the a-helices that occur in mammalian keratins. If mammalian keratins are stretched in steam, then they develop a b-sheet configuration, so imagining a very stretched spring gives one some idea of the form of avian keratin.

learn more | PDF


'Frog's glue' could mend knees
"We assumed the substance would be toxic, but when we found it wasn't, it made sense to explore it as a medical adhesive" said environmental biologist Mike Tyler. When set, it was flexible and had a porous structure that should make it permeable to gas and nutrients, which would encourage healing.

blue crab

Blue Crab Nano-Sensor Detects Dangers
A substance found in crab shells is the key component in a nanoscale sensor system developed by researchers at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering. The sensor can detect minute quantities of explosives, bioagents, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in air and water, potentially leading to security and safety innovations for airports, hospitals, and other public locations.


Jumping Robots: inspiration from kangaroos, locusts, grasshoppers, chameleons (tongue), flying squirrels Biomimeticists are looking at how to incorporate flying and jumping. Among them is Keith Paskins of the University of Bath, who is trying to mimic flying squirrels. The squirrels have floppy skin attached to their wrists and ankles, which they can stretch out to make a gliding surface. The animals also appear to be able to control their gliding through rapid movements while in the air.


The relationship between 3-D kinematics and gliding performance in the southern flying squirrel, Glaucomys volans. Kristin L. BishopDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University

fish image

Like a Fish - Revolutionary Underwater Breathing System An artificial system that will mimic the way fish use the air in the water thus allowing both smaller submarines and divers to get rid of the large, cumbersome compressed air tanks.

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abalone abalone2

The mother of pearl growth surface of abalone shell is colored due to the way light refracts as it strikes tiny ridges of calcium carbonate.

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biomimicry defined

Comparative Biomechanics - Life's Physical World

by Stephen Vogel

Comparative Biomechanics

"I tried skim-reading Steven Vogel's Comparative Biomechanics . . . but was compromised: the volume has so many little gems scattered throughout that my eye got caught by the glitter and couldn't escape."
Julian F. V. Vincent, Science

human plus nature

The real bottom line is the biological bottom line. We are animals who live within the exquisite confines of the air, water and land where life exists. It's the biosphere that is the source of everything that matters to us.

David Suzuki
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CBID is an interdisciplinary center for research and development of design solutions that occur in biological processes. Founded in 2005, It is one of more than 100 interdisciplinary research units funded at Georgia Institute of Technology