A journey towards new engineering designs and technological applications that imitate biological systems.
From design to architecture and robotics, the use of innovative methods and new technologies is increasingly inspired by the genius of nature.
We are talking about biomimetics (> see Sensitive nature and biomimetics), an issue repeatedly addressed, but whose developments require continuous information updates.
Its applications are in fact constantly evolving thanks to research that helps us understand how living organisms adapt to changes in external factors.
A study on gravity perception in plants, conducted by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the French National Institute for Agronomic Research and Université Clermont Auvergne, lays the foundation for bio-inspired industrial applications
The mechanism has been examined by which a plant, if tilted, will alter its growth to bend back upwards.
The plant detects the inclination through cells in which “gravisensors” move, which also respond to even the tiniest deviation from the vertical.
The study showed that, despite their granular nature, the “sensors” move and respond as a liquid clinometer* would do.
The bio-inspired industrial applications
The results shed light on sensitivity of plants to inclination and could help develop instruments (robust, miniature clinometers offering an alternative to today’s gyroscopes and accelerometers) to measure elevation angles above the horizontal, to detect the deviation of an object from its desired orientation and to measure the acceleration or deceleration speed.
Some practical example? Applications for such sensors include smartphones, navigational systems of aircraft, flight stabilisation systems of drones and collision prevention systems in vehicles.
From biophysics to biomimetics
PLANTMOVE (Plant movements and mechano-perception: from biophysics to biomimetics), which financed the project in which the study was conducted, addresses basic mechanisms used by plants to perceive mechanical stimuli and generate motion: how to transport fluids, move solids or perceive mechanical signals without the equivalent of pumps, muscles or nerves?
All this to improve the understanding of basic plant functions and offer new strategies to design smart soft materials and fluids inspired by plant sensors and motility mechanism.
Nature: discover it and reveal its secrets. The importance of exploration and research.
* instrument to measure the inclination of a body