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Beetle Technology Roundup

May 13, 2011

Beetles are inspiring new design technologies.



New designs from beetles. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Namib Beetle survives in the desert thanks to little bumps on its back: moisture in the air condenses on the bumps, runs into little furrows and rolls down into its mouth. Engineers at MIT are tryng to create fog catchers that harvest water the same way. They’re designing mesh fabrics using one material that attracts and collects moisture, and another that repels it, to allow the water to run down into a container. The goal is to provide a new source of water to desert communities.

In other beetle engineering news, scientists at the University of Costa Rica have discovered how some beetles shine like gold and silver, even though they have no pigments. It’s all caused by dozens of semi-transparent reflective layers on their backs. The scientists hope to copy the technology to design new materials for optics, electronics and even jewelry I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.