Bug-eye camera
8 Images

Medicines and machines, inspired by nature

Insects have multifaceted eyes that allow them to see in all directions. Engineers have copied the design to create a digital camera with an array of tiny lenses that could guide miniature spy planes, search-and-rescue vehicles and endoscopic medical procedures.  (University of Illinois and Beckman Institute)
Jeffrey Karp, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, created a flexible microneedle device that can hold delicate skin grafts in place or administer drugs without the risks and side effects of traditional medical devices. The design was copied from a parasitic spiny-headed worm that uses its proboscis to lock itself onto the intestinal wall of its host. (Karp lab)
Our bodies build bones by arranging air pockets in a complex pattern that makes them incredibly strong. Engineers with a souped-up 3-D printer used this idea to make strong yet lightweight microstructures. The ultimate goal is to create better building materials. (Jens Bauer/ Institute for Applied Materials, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)
Mollusk shells are made with hexagonal plates of calcium carbonate that interlock like Lego blocks. Scientists figured out that the boundaries between the plates absorb energy when deformed, keeping the shells strong instead of brittle. They used this principle to make glass stronger by etching in tiny cracks. (Francois Barthelat)
The Atlantic razor clam, left, can burrow into sand 10 times more efficiently than man-made diggers. Researchers at MIT and the University of Maryland figured out why: It contracts its body to create a vacuum that causes sand to behave like a fluid rather than a solid. They copied that strategy when they built RoboClam, right, which may have a future in ocean surveys or surveillance.  ( Donna Coveney, Amos Winter / MIT)
Inspired by the viscous secretions of slugs, sandcastle worms and spiders, scientists created a surgical adhesive that could safely seal up the hearts of babies born with congenital heart defects. These tiny patients aren’t good candidates for surgical staples or other traditional closure devices. (Randal McKenzie / McKenzie Illustrations)
Microscopic hooks that grow in kidney bean leaves have been trapping bed bugs since ancient times. Now the design is being copied and tested in a new generation of environmentally friendly pest control devices. (M. Szyndler and C. Loudon / UC Irvine)
These simple robots are able to build complicated structures by following a few simple rules and using “swarm intelligence,” which allows hives of bees or colonies of termites to act as a single, complex organism. (Self-Organizing Systems Research Group / Harvard University)