21st Feb, 2011
Plants are inspiring new classes of structure, designed to twist, bend, stiffen and even heal themselves, through collaborations between plant scientists and mechanical engineers.
Mimosa Pudica, the 'sensitive plant', is famous for folding its leaves back when touched. The movement is achieved through osmosis: touch triggers water to leave certain cells, and to enter others, with the result that the leaves fold inwards. Researchers are studying how plants change shape, and working to replicate the mechanisms in artificial cells. Today, their artificial cells are palm-size and larger, but the teams are working to shrink them down, using microstructures and nanofibers. They're also exploring how to replicate the mechanisms by which plants heal themselves.
Read more about it in Science Daily.