Here are more stories about animals, plants and cells attracting scientists with their astonishing capabilities, proving that biomimetics is one of the hottest trends in science.
Nutcracker sweet: The mantis shrimp won another gold medal after triumphing in the circularly-polarized eye competition. PhysOrg, New Scientist and Live Science all gave it thumbs up for its club-like hammer claw, found to be the “strongest club in the world” able to deliver a force 1,000 times its own weight without breaking. Not only that, the clubs accelerate to 10,000 g’s, have the fastest moving parts in the animal kingdom (23 m/sec), and are so durable they deliver a thousand blows before the next molt replaces them.
Unsurprisingly, manufacturers of body armor are raising eyebrows with visions of joining the club. Mantis shrimp use their weapons to break open molluscs and crabs. They have been known to break aquarium glass with their little karate choppers. The clubs survive breakage through construction with hard, then medium, then soft layers that distribute the force and inhibit cracks from forming. The original paper in Science (8 June 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6086 pp. 1275–1280, DOI: 10.1126/science.1218764 ) calls the claw “A Formidable Damage-Tolerant Biological Hammer.”
Al G. Lightner, NRG: Algae and bacteria accomplish a feat green engineers drool over: the ability to harvest light efficiently for energy. Artificial fuel cells need their secrets to make green energy competitive with fossil fuels (which, by the way, are by-products of plants that used photosynthesis to make the complex hydrocarbons). PhysOrg reported on new attempts at Lawrence Livermore Labs to use X-ray diffraction to probe the secrets of Photosystem II, the plant antenna where the magic happens and water is decomposed into hydrogen, oxygen and electrons. The article paid customary lip service to Mother Nature and long ages without explaining how the complex process arose:
For more than two billion years, nature has employed photosynthesis to oxidize water into molecular oxygen. Photosystem II, the only known biological system that can harness visible light for the photooxidation of water, produces most of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere through a five-step catalytic cycle (S0-to-S4 oxidation states)….
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