Top, a schematic shows the design of the liquid-infused dynamic material. The bottom two photographs show the dry and lubricated elastic substrates. (Source: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)
Cabe, that's another clever observation: sounds like an intriguing application for this material, assuming it has enough adhesion to take all that weight (instead of just the weight of the liquid). If it does, hiking boots would be a good app. I've scrambled down too many scree-filled hillsides, managing to not fall over by walking like a crab and using a stick. Better gripping shoes would have helped.
It would seem the material could be adapted for use in shoes as a better means of traction when traversing on inclines. More pressure on the down step could potentially stretch the material giving it better grip.
Hmm. Seems like a bit of a stretch to me. The eyelid is a mechanical liquid dispersal system, it's not changing the physical surface of the eyeball in order to change the flow of liquid. Still, it's a unique bit of research and sometimes these find valuable uses down the line.
Scott, that's an interesting question. The biological inspiration for this material system was human tears on the surface of the eye. As the press release says, "The new material was inspired by dynamic, self-restoring systems in Nature, such as the liquid film that coats your eyes. Individual tears join up to form a dynamic liquid film with an obviously significant optical function that maintains clarity, while keeping the eye moist, protecting it against dust and bacteria, and helping to transport away any wastes..." http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/109/
This stuff seems quite strange to me. It almost looks like an organic material like a "skin" of some sort. I expect the real challenge will be to mechanically manipulate large, industrial-size bits of the material to get the desired effect. I found myself wondering if there are any systems in nature that emulate this effect?
Well not exactly, far911. There's no self-learning here. The adaptability is not inherent in the system itself, once designed and created, but in the material's design. Engineers can use different materials that respond to different stimuli for different effects, as the article states.
Yes, this is definitely something that it's probably better to watch it in action to understand its impact. My Internet was wobbly yesterday when I tried to view the video. I'll give it a go again today and I'm sure I also will be impressed!