Category Archives: local properties

Cat’s Claw – Safety Thumbtack

cat_paw cat_pinsMany of us remember the misfortune of stepping on a thumbtack, sitting on a tack (!), or reaching into a box of thumbtacks and getting pricked. New York design engineer Toshi Fukaya has now found a simple solution to the painful problem.


Technical application:

spike, tires, grip applications, climbing, grippers

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scorpion “skin” for more abrasion resistance

ScorpionA species of North African scorpion does not mind getting sand blasted or whipped by desert winds. While other desert creatures burrow downward for protection, the scorpion scurries in the open and withstands abrasion. Studies reveal that its surface is covered with many hardened, dome-shaped bumps just a few microns in size. This armor coating deflects nearby air flow and reduces the force of wind and sand.

Technical application:

abrasion resistance

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the mystical movement of snakes

Red_milk_snake.JPG.w300h233Snakes have scales on their belly skin which help them move about. On a flat surface, the body weight is continuously redistributed for maximum friction, and the scales provide grip. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made detailed studies of the movement of the milk snake. The result, which they call terrestrial lateral undulation, reveals complex motion.

Technical application:

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Thorny Devil Lizard as Water Collector

Moloch_cc03.jpg.w300h199 moloch2.jpg.w300h160The thorny devil lizard, or thorny dragon, lives in the desert areas of central Australia. This lizard, just 4-6 inches long, looks ferocious with a body completely covered with thorny spines. Two additional large pointed scales on its head resemble curved horns.

How does this animal survive in a dry land where the temperature reaches 122⁰F (50⁰ C)?

Technical application:

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tree frog climb wet and dirty surfaces as well as upside down surfaces without falling

TreeFrog_Laubfrosch_cropped.jpg.w300h400Here is an activity to try with a length of adhesive tape. Press the tape against a dusty surface several times. As expected, the tape quickly loses its holding strength as dust particles collect and coat the sticky side. In contrast, consider tree frogs which thrive in dusty, wet, or muddy surroundings. Yet they cling securely to branches and leaves, even hanging upside down. How are they able to hold on without falling?

Technical application:

holding applications

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human eye as a model for better wiping systems

220px-Heckscheibenwischer_kl eyelid_2Engineer and inventor Robert Kearns (1929-2005) lived in Detroit, a region surrounded by the auto industry. One misty, rainy day he drove his Ford Galaxie across town. He was irritated by the constant scraping and vibration of the windshield wipers on the semi-dry windshield. At this time, most wipers had just two settings, one for normal rain and the other for a heavy downpour. Kearns also had only one good eye, and the constant smearing motion of the wipers did not help his vision or driving concentration. What happened next is what the Wall Street Journal calls “the kind of inspiration that separates inventors from ordinary people.” Kearn simply asked himself whether windshield wipers could mimic the blinking of our eyes.

Technical application:

windshield wipers

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eye-lens camera contact lens and monitoring your body for health purposes

220px-Sony_DSC-H2_01First watch the video below!

Cameras have long mimicked  the optics of the eye. Both collect and focus light with a convex outer lens. However, cameras have a shortcoming: They typically focus the image onto a flat surface. Whether this surface is covered with film or a digital sensor, distortion results from the projecting of light from a curved lens onto the flat 120px-Eye_Central_Heterochromia_crop_and_lightersurface. The insertion of additional lenses reduces the distortion, but this adds to camera weight and cost. Our eye with its hemispherical shape has no such problem.

Technical application:

better optical technologies, contact lens

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will our lungs help to reduce carbon dioxid emissions on our planet?

lungsOur hard-working lungs clearly show intelligent planning. Within our lungs, countless tiny air sacks called alveoli exchange gases from the bloodstream, supplying fresh oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. The component membranes which allow separation and passage of the gases are about one thousand times thinner than a printed period. The total gas exchange area adds up to at least 70 time an adult’s total body surface area, or the size of a volleyball court. Specialized chemicals, especially carbonic anhydrase, help carry on the continuous gas exchange process.

Technical application:


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Saliva a wound-healing elixier

researchersThis example of a practical design in nature may lack appeal but it is vitally important to our health. A common phrase is to “lick one’s own wounds.” This saying expresses the effort to care for one’s own needs and generally look out for oneself. However, there is a more practical application. Dutch researchers are studying the chemical compounds in human saliva. They find an abundance of simple proteins called histatins that actively fight infection. Also present are compounds that cause epithelium skin cells to close quickly over a wound. Most of us have experienced the benefits of these saliva components. Small cuts inside the mouth tend to heal more rapidly than external injuries, and mouth healing leaves little scaring.

Technical application:

wound healing

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