A group of researchers has discovered that the seahorse tail would prove to be helpful in biomedical science and robotics. It was observed that the seahorse’s tail was square-shaped and worked better for both grasping and as armor when needed.
These findings may lead us to build better defense systems, robots, and medical devices.
Seahorse tails are organized into square prisms which are surrounded by bony plates that are connected by joints. Usually, other creatures (e.g., monkeys, rodents) have cylindrical tails.
A research team from Clemson University decided to test whether that particular structure gave the seahorse some functional advantages or not.
They observed that the plates in the seahorse’s tail were remarkably stronger, more resistant to strain and stiff at the same time. But usually, if one of these characteristics is stronger than others are weaker.
The researchers had made a 3D model that mimicked the structure of the tail. The 3D model had a cylindrical version, which was hypothetical. Then the models were hit with a rubber hammer and twisted to bent them.
Since technologies like 3D printing have allowed mimicking the biological designs, it has become easier to built hypothetical models and research, says one of the scientists, Dr. Porter.
He goes on saying that 3D printers have helped in new engineering applications and made it easier to explain the biological systems. The research led to the conclusion that the square prototype was stiffer, stronger, and more resilient than the circular one when crushed.
The prototype was about half as able to twist, a restriction that would easily prevent damage to the seahorse and give it better control when it grabs things.
Both prototypes were able to bend about 90 degrees, even though the cylindrical version was slightly less restricted.
“The seahorse tail could inspire new forms of armor. It could also lead to search-and-rescue robots that move on the ground like a snake and can contract to fit into tight spaces,” Dr. Porter said.
“We haven’t gotten that far with the applications side of things yet, but we see a lot of potential with this device because it’s so unique.”