Rudolf Bannasch

Morphological intelligence in bionic applications

Looking at the functional anatomy of living organisms trough the eyes of an engineer one can discover a wealth of inspiring, evolutionary optimised and practically well proven structural solutions suitable to stimulate also a new concept for the development of modern high-tech constructions. The talk will give some examples to illustrate how nature makes use of elastic materials and self-adaptive structures in order to increase functional reliability and fault tolerance dramatically as well as to reduce weight, energy consumption and neuronal control in operation. The application of similar concepts to engineering lead to an approach recently characterized by terms like “intelligent embodiment” or “morphological intelligence”. Artificial covering feathers were successfully tested in aircrafts to prevent stall in crucial flight manoeuvres by blocking the reverse flow at the suction side of the wings at high angles of attack. The unusual self-adaptive behaviour of fish fins (Fin Ray Effect ®) lead to a new concept in adaptive wing profiles and facilitated the design of an artificial manta ray with a very “organic” swimming behaviour. Other useful applications of the Fin Ray Effect ® are e.g. a backrest self-adapting to the shape of the human body and a new type of grippers able to handle fragile objects with variable shapes. Finally, a life-sized humanoid robot with artificial muscles will demonstrate how man and robots can gently work together in the future.