Biomimicry, or designing structures and even entire systems with inspiration from nature, is all around us: aircraft design, insulation, office buildings. But University of Arizona scientists are taking the concept further and are using nature to inspire entirely new technologies. The Arizona Republic recently spoke with multiple scientists and engineers who are using cutting-edge examples of biomimicry. AME associate professor Jekan Thanga explained how insect societies and collaboration styles can be used to help design "robot swarms."
Thanga is researching construction robots that can build infrastructure on other worlds, inspired by the construction processes of ants, bees and termites working together to build complex structures.
Biology is full of “principles that we consider sort of superior to our own engineering methods,” he said.
Thanga hopes that teams of robots could be deployed to mine for natural resources and construct buildings on asteroids or the surface of the moon. He sees his research and methods as "a response to the pressures of the modern world," including climate change and resource limitations. As a result, he thinks humans should push to become an interplanetary species.
“All of these factors (threats like climate change and resource limitation), I think, forces us to want to think about a second place outside of Earth apart from just curiosity about what's out there,” he said.