Feb 232011
Mimosa pudica

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Sustainable tech is becoming a  green job-creating engine for people, and it’s creating new green jobs for robots, too.

If the latest research out of the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania is any indicator, some of those new robots may be able to bend, twist, and reform in ways that mimic the movement of shape-shifting plants.

Plants in Motion

Anyone with a window garden has observed phototropism, which refers to the way that many plants appear to move as they grow toward a light source. It’s a slow-motion process that is facilitated by a chemical that causes cells on the “dark” side of the plant to elongate. The research team is investigating another kind of movement that only occurs in certain plants. Called nastic movement, it differs from phototropism in several ways. It is a rapid movement that can be observed with the naked eye in real time, its direction is not determined by the source of the stimulus that touches it off, and it is generally based on a hydraulic action.

Nastic Movement and Regeneration

If you’ve been following green tech for a while, you might be familiar with another recent green biomimicry breakthrough out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in which the researchers found a way to reproduce the ability of plants to break down and regenerate their light-capturing molecules. The end result would be a self-repairing solar cell that is practically immune to heat damage.

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