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Even without a brain or a nervous system, the Venus flytrap appears to make sophisticated decisions about when to snap shut on potential prey, as well as to open when it has accidentally caught something it can't eat.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science have taken inspiration from these sorts of systems. Using stimuli-responsive materials and geometric principles, they have designed structures that have "embodied logic." Through their physical and chemical makeup alone, they are able to determine which of multiple possible responses to make in response to their environment.

Despite having no motors, batteries, circuits or processors of any kind, they can switch between multiple configurations in response to pre-determined environmental cues, such as humidity or oil-based chemicals.

Using multi-material 3D printers, the researchers can make these active structures with nested if/then logic gates, and can control the timing of each gate, allowing for complicated mechanical behaviors in response to simple changes in the environment. For example, by utilizing these principles an aquatic pollution-monitoring device could be designed to open and collect a sample only in the presence of an oil-based chemical and when the temperature is over a certain threshold.

The Penn Engineers published an open access study outlining their approach in the journal Nature Communications.

To read more, click here.

Category: Science