Danish researcher imitates nature to develop new sports technology

Lucie Rychla
January 2nd, 2017

This article is more than 6 years old.

DTU lecturer takes inspiration from a wide range of organisms including geckos, blue mussels and pine cones

A lecturer from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is together with his students developing new sports technology inspired by nature.

Torben Lenau, who is both an engineer and researcher in so-called biomimicry, seeks innovative solutions to challenges in the sports world by emulating nature’s models and strategies.

He takes inspiration from emperor penguins, sharks, geckos, pine cones, blue mussels, kangaroos and more.

READ MORE: New Danish quantum tech research facilities in the works

Improved athletic performance
“Evolving animals and plants have over time solved many of the problems we grapple with in everyday life,” Lenau told DTU News.

“They continuously adapt to their environment, and that is something we must take inspiration from.”

According to Lenau, biomimetics can be used to not only develop new sports technologies, but also to help athletes perform at their best during training.

“By measuring their pulse, we can get information on the number of beats and whether [the athlete should] run faster, slower or at intervals,” he said.

“The technologies can be designed either as watches or small hearing aids that sit in the ear canal with sensors connected to a smartphone.”

READ MORE: Danish researchers find the key to snake bite anti-venom

More efficient skis, sails and leg prostheses
Geckos, for instance, have inspired researchers thanks to the adhesive hair they have on their fingers, which help them to stick to flat surfaces.

This function has been used in the development of a material similar to velcro that can be used to make skis more stable on snow that is icy or too wet.

Meanwhile, the mechanism through which pine cones release their seeds has inspired researchers to create adjustable leg prostheses and shoes, while the self-healing function of a mussle’s byssal threads (that they use as anchors) could be used for the development of self-repairing sails in sailing.


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