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Science Today is a daily radio feature produced by the University of California for the CBS Radio Network. From breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and the environment to insights into the world around us, Science Today covers it all.

Posts tagged with ‘materials science’

A woodpecker drives its head into a piece of wood at deceleration forces of up to 1,200 times the force of gravity with each blow (and it’s estimated they do this about 12,000 times in a day). And yet, they don’t get brain damage. For materials scientists like Joanna McKittrick @ucsd, who work on bio-inspired materials, this is intriguing stuff …

The skull is a very nice, impact-resistant shell, so we are looking at their skulls - and their tongues also play a role into this, too. Amazingly enough, their tongues can wrap around their skulls …. if you like nature and you are curious about animals, almost everything you see, you’d say, why that, what is that function and can we duplicate that in the lab?

A woodpecker drives its head into a piece of wood at deceleration forces of up to 1,200 times the force of gravity with each blow (and it’s estimated they do this about 12,000 times in a day). And yet, they don’t get brain damage. For materials scientists like Joanna McKittrick @ucsd, who work on bio-inspired materials, this is intriguing stuff …

The skull is a very nice, impact-resistant shell, so we are looking at their skulls - and their tongues also play a role into this, too. Amazingly enough, their tongues can wrap around their skulls …. if you like nature and you are curious about animals, almost everything you see, you’d say, why that, what is that function and can we duplicate that in the lab?

Bio-inspired materials essentially use Mother Nature as a guide. Materials scientist Joanna McKittrick of the University of California, San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering is interested in making new materials that have enhanced mechanical properties.

"And one way to do that is to look at how Mother Nature has created structures such as antlers or horns or porcupine quills, looking at feathers for example for lightweight structures. Same thing with the porcupine quills. Antlers and animal horns are impact resistant so they can absorb a lot of energy before they break. And that would be good for making bumpers or kneepads or helmets. "

Recently, McKittrick’s team has been inspired by the seahorse.

"The surprising thing about the seahorse is its tail. It can wrap and it can bend, it can curl up, but it can also curl to the sides. So it is very flexible and we thought wow that would make a good probe; that would make a good robot arm."