What does the future hold for nature inspired research?
How rapidly is the subject of biomimetics expanding?From a relatively small field of tens of papers in the mid-1990s, biomimetics has exponentially expanded thereafter to now reach nearly 3000 papers per year.
Want to keep
The University of Sheffield online course,
Building a Future with Robots
What subjects does biomimetics encompass?The results of this analysis are displayed in a word cloud of frequent terms in biomimetic research.Popular topics in biomimetics The word cloud shows the popularity of terms occurring in the titles of papers on biomimetic research. The word size is proportional to the frequency of word occurrence.Word clouds, and data clouds more generally, are a visual depiction of the frequency of words within a larger set obtained by scaling the font size of each word within the cloud by its frequency of occurrenceAs expected, the word biomimetic is the most popular word. Then, perhaps more revealingly, other leading terms are ‘robot’ and ‘control’, which suggests that a main thrust of biomimetic research is to take inspiration from how animals control their bodies and sensory systems for application to robotics.Concepts from control engineering and artificial intelligence are also represented, including model, network, algorithm, simulation, learning, adaptive and optimization.
Are there distinct research communities within biomimetics?This question was addressed with techniques from network theory applied to a graph of frequent biomimetic topics linked given by common pairings within the titles of papers. Terms that are strongly connected can then be pulled together on the graph, while disparate topics are pushed apart.Connectedness of popular terms in biomimetics Two words in the word cloud in figure 5 are considered connected if they co-occur within the same titles, with the co-occurrence frequency giving the connection strength. A Force Atlas algorithm was applied to these node words and connection strengths, which pulls together the connected terms. The graph is colored according to a modularity analysis, which finds communities within the connected network, where a community is defined to be a group of nodes that have denser intra-connections but sparser connections with other communities.Applying a modularity analysis to this network showed that the field of biomimetics was well connected and may thus be considered a single discipline. Underlying this inter-connectivity was a community structure into five identifiable research themes (shown in the network graph above):
- Robotics and control – general robotics and control, not specifically bioinspired or bio-related (shown in blue)
- Ethology-based robotics – robotics based on the study of animal behaviour (shown in black)
- Biomimetic actuators – synthetic actuators that mimic biological actuators, such as muscle (shown in yellow)
- Biomaterials science – materials and processes associated particularly with biology, such as tissue or adhesion etc. (shown in red)
- Structural bioengineering – structures and movements associated particularly with biology, e.g. wing or flapping (shown in green)
ConclusionsBiomimetics is a research field that is achieving particular prominence through a wide variety of new discoveries in biology and engineering.There has been a rapid expansion of publications on biomimetics from the mid-1990s to present day, doubling every 2–3 years to now reach a mature field of nearly 3000 papers per year. Furthermore, the field is still expanding, and so more growth can be expected. There are a number of distinct themes into which biomimetics can be partitioned; robotics and control, ethology-based robotics, biomimetic actuators, and biomaterials science and structural bioengineering. Taken together, these findings indicate that biomimetics is becoming a dominant paradigm for robotics, materials science and other technological disciplines, with the potential for significant scientific, societal and economic impact over this decade and into the future.Adapted from: Lepora, N. F., Verschure, P., and Prescott, T. J. (2013) The state of the art in biomimetics. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 8(1). © IOP Publishing. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
Building a Future with Robots
Our purpose is to transform access to education.
We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.
We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.