Shapeshifting Material For Weather Adaptive Structures

Where [Isaac Newton] had his apple (maybe), [Chao Chen] found inspiration in a pine cone for a design project that lead to a water-sensitive building material. He noticed the way some pine cones are sensitive to water, closing up tight when it rains, but opening up with dry conditions. Some dissection of a pine cone revealed [Mother Nature’s] solution – different layers that swell preferentially when exposed to moisture, similar to how a bimetallic strip flexes when heated. [Chao Chen’s] solution appears to use balsa wood and a polystyrene sheet laminated to a fabric backing to achieve the same movement – the wood swells when wet and pulls the laminate flat, but curls up when dry.

As [Chao] points out, the material is only a prototype, but it looks like a winner down the road. The possibilities for an adaptive material like this are endless. [Chao] imagines a picnic pavilion with a roof that snaps shut when it rains, and has built a working model. What about window shutters that let air and light in but close up automatically in that sudden summer storm? Self-deploying armor for your next epic Super Soaker battle? Maybe there are more serious applications that would help solve some of the big problems with water management that the world faces.

Make sure you check out the video after the break, with a more decorative application that starts out looking like an [M.C. Escher] print but ends up completely different.

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ArduSpider entertains children and exercises pets

There are so many good things about [Jose Julio’s] robotic spider. It’s design is dainty yet robust, and the behaviors encoded in the firmware are nothing short of spectacular.

The body is built from a piece of balsa wood in between sheets of carbon fiber. The legs are carbon rods, using two servo motors for left and right leg movement, and a third servo which can move the intermediary legs like the roll axis of a plane. An IR sensor rides on the front for obstacle avoidance, with system control courtesy of an Arduino. For more hardware info check out his build log.

Don’t miss the video after the break. You’ll see that the little bot can be manually controlled, or allowed to roam free. As we said before, the behavior is fantastic. Not only has [Jose] programmed interesting characteristics like the spider getting tired and sitting down for a while, but when it is awakened it leaps into the air. The movements are fun to watch for human and feline alike; if only your house cat could be so lucky.

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