Celebrate Earth Day by learning how the Wyss Institute’s technologies are inspired by Nature
At the Wyss Institute, we look to Nature for inspiration to develop disruptive technologies that will make our world healthier and more sustainable. Through our commitment to biologically inspired engineering, we’re applying our ever-deepening insights into the way that living systems form and function to create new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing.
1/15 The RoboBee is inspired by a bee’s biology; it has “smart” sensors and control electronics that mimic the eyes and antennae of a bee and can sense and respond dynamically to the environment. Like bees, RoboBees can one day be used for pollination, amongst other applications.
2/15 Certain 4D-printed hydrogel composites are inspired by the way that flowers go through dynamic shape changes in response to changes in their environments. Swelling and stiffness properties can be patterned into the hydrogel’s structure, making it programmable.
3/15 Metamorpho is inspired by the way a tadpole swims – first with its tail alone while its legs receive a feedback signal that tells them to move, then with the help of its legs.
4/15 SLIPS is inspired by the pitcher plant’s ability to repel almost every type of liquid and solid. SLIPS technology creates slick, exceptionally repellent and robust self-cleaning surfaces which repel almost any fouling challenge a surface may face.
5/15 The TERMES robots are inspired by termites’ ability to perform a complicated task, such as building an 8-foot soil mound, as a group without supervision and to communicate implicitly by observing each other’s changes to the environment and acting accordingly.
6/15 Tough gel adhesives are inspired by the mucus secreted by a Dusky Arion slug. This adhesive is biocompatible, flexible, and can stick to dynamically moving tissues even in the presence of blood.
7/15 The kirigami robot is inspired by snakes’ scales, which help them move without legs. As the robot elongates, the flat surface is altered into a textured one, which grips the ground like the scales of snakes.
8/15 The Lung-on-a-Chip is inspired by the human lung in that it mimics the tissue present in the human lung, complete with a supporting blood vessel in a device the size of a microchip. It is used to model lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cigarette-induced pathologies, and to find new disease biomarkers and therapeutics.
9/15 MORPH is inspired by the peacock spider, a millimeter-sized creature that exhibits a dramatic mating display through movement and color. The completely soft robot contains networks of microfluidic actuators that can be filled with water to drive its movement and colors to change its appearance, and its underlying technology will hopefully one day enable devices that can be safely operated inside the human body.
10/15 Liquid Gated Membranes are inspired by stomata, which are tight openings in the leaves and stems of plants that enable gas exchange. Similarly, Liquid Gated Membranes have been engineered to allow the precise separation of liquids, gases, and solids without clogging and with significant energy savings.
11/15 Kilobots are inspired by animals’ ability to swarm, or engage in collective behaviors in order to form complex structures or achieve remarkable feats. Kilobots are a robotic system for advancing the development of robot swarms, which could enable new approaches for search and rescue missions, construction efforts, environmental remediation, and medical applications.
12/15 Research at the Wyss Institute aims to develop new ways to translate digital information into DNA sequence information. DNA is at least 1000-fold denser than the most compact solid-state hard drives and at least 300-fold more durable than the most stable magnetic tapes.
13/15 The Octobot is inspired by octopuses, animals that can perform incredible feats of strength and dexterity despite not having an internal skeleton. The Octobot is also entirely soft, and powered without electronics.
14/15 The virus-inspired nano-bots take cues from viruses, whose DNA is protected by a lipid membrane, in that they are engineered with a similar membrane surrounding their central DNA nanostructure, which extends the lifetime and availability of disease-specific deliverables. In the future, these nano-devices could help detect and treat diseases.
15/15 The Wyss Institute’s BIND technology harnesses bacteria’s ability to congregate and produce “biofilms” around them that can be customized with different capabilities. It has widespread applications, ranging from pollution remediation to manufacturing pharmaceuticals and other products in a more environmentally friendly manner.