Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Green Economy

Folding Plants Inspire Next Generation of Shape Shifting Robots

University of Michigan researchers study mimosa plant for new robot technologySustainable tech is becoming a  green job-creating engine for people, and it’s creating new green jobs for robots, too.  If the latest research out of the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania is any indicator, some of those new robots may be able to bend, twist, and reform in ways that mimic the movement of shape-shifting plants.

Plants in Motion

Anyone with a window garden has observed phototropism, which refers to the way that many plants appear to move as they grow toward a light source. It’s a slow-motion process that is facilitated by a chemical that causes cells on the “dark” side of the plant to elongate. The research team is investigating another kind of movement that only occurs in certain plants. Called nastic movement, it differs from phototropism in several ways. It is a rapid movement that can be observed with the naked eye in real time, its direction is not determined by the source of the stimulus that touches it off, and it is generally based on a hydraulic action.

Nastic Movement and Regeneration

If you’ve been following green tech for a while, you might be familiar with another recent green biomimicry breakthrough out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in which the researchers found a way to reproduce the ability of plants to break down and regenerate their light-capturing molecules. The end result would be a self-repairing solar cell that is practically immune to heat damage. However, the U Michigan research is coming from another angle. Rather than investigating re-organization at the cellular level, they’re looking it from an engineering perspective, without involving new or regenerated growth.

Nastic Movement, Mimosa and Robots

The Mimosa is an ideal jumping off point for studying nastic movement because of the spectacular way that its leaves fold up (video in link) in response to a stimulus,  like a Busby Berkeley sequence in miniature. The research team hopes that their studies will lead to the development of adaptive materials that can completely change their organization and then change back again. As applied to sustainable tech, it could enable the development of new robots that have the flexibility to perform difficult tasks in data collection, repair, or monitoring. It could also mean new options for aerodynamics and collapsible design in architecture, vehicles and equipment.

Image: Mimosa by DDFic on flickr.com

 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 

Advertisement
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

Comments

You May Also Like

Autonomous Vehicles

Originally posted on EVANNEX. By Charles Morris A gold rush attracts prospectors from near and far, and the invariable result is that some get...

Cars

Last decade tech giants introduced phantom digital “assistants” that answer requests and perform simple tasks in the house. Whether you wanted to turn off...

Buildings

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced 10 winners for the first phase of the Envelope Retrofit Opportunities for Building Optimization Technologies (E-ROBOT) Prize, a...

Autonomous Vehicles

Rather than reading this article, I do highly recommend watching the video version instead. However, for those who do not like that medium, we...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.