Could the lowly seahorse completely change how we design robots?

Could the lowly seahorse completely change how we design robots?

The seahorse has a very strange shape for its tail -- it's square, not cylindrical -- and this design could revolutionize how robots are developed.

A new study has found that seahorses have an amazingly unique design in its tail that could have big implications for how robots are designed in the future.

Seahorses may seem like delicate animals, but they actually have a tough yet flexible suit of armor, particularly in its square-shaped tale that better holds off an attack than one that is round, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

A new study which was published in the journal Science finds that this design could lead to the creation of robots that are both flexible and durable, something that could not be accomplished with a cylindrical design.

Beyond defense, the seahorse tail is also very nimble, and able to grab items. The 36-segment tail has a square shape that forms a box-shaped cross-section, not a cylindrical one — odd considering that you would think that a cylinder design would be better streamlined for swimming. That means that this design is no accident: it has a very specific evolutionary purpose, so scientists are looking at it more closely.

Michael Porter, the lead author of the study, was studying seahorse skeletons at the UC San Diego, while also trying to develop steerable catheter. He found that a round shape as opposed to a square shape reduce the design’s functionality, and showed that perhaps the square design might be superior.

In soft robotics, this design could be key in solving the problem of mechanisms being weaker than rigid elements, so now scientists may have found a way to achieve both flexibility and toughness.

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