Scientists Turn To Seahorses For Nearly Unbreakable Limbs

Researchers at Clemson University have created a new sort of robotic design based on the long, curled tail of the seahorse. The seahorse is unique because it consists of “square prisms surrounded by bony plates that are connected by joints.” Other animal tails are cylindrical and therefore easily crushed.

The researchers write:

Researchers found that the square prototype was stiffer, stronger and more resilient than the circular one when crushed. The square prototype was about half as able to twist, a restriction that could prevent damage to the seahorse and give it better control when it grabs things.Both prototypes could bend about 90 degrees, although the cylindrical version was slightly less restricted.

Porter said the seahorse tail could inspire new forms of armor. It could also lead to search-and-rescue robots that move on the ground like a snake and are able to contract to fit into tight spaces.

There are a few popular biomimetic robotic snakes on the market but this design would allow a robot to fold up without losing structural integrity. The robotic seahorse could withstand a solid whacking with a hammer while similar cylindrical designs folded at the point of impact.