In the final of chapter of the making stuff series, the topic in point was making stuff smarter. The amazing materials covered ranged from pads that allowed robots to climb walls, non-Newtonian fluids, practical applications for the design of sharkskin, and materials that can repair themselves. “Making Stuff: Smarter” focuses on taking materials and objects like fuel tanks and shock absorbers and by using a new material, create a completely new and improved version of that object. The coolest thing about “Making Stuff: Smarter” is that not all of these materials are rare materials.
Sharks were on first as the science of these beauties of the sea were discussed in-depth. Sharks have an amazing ability to fight algae growth and glide silently through the water. When trying to understand why sharks had these unique abilities, scientists took a closer look at their scales and realized that the shape and patterning of the scales actually helped a shark swim and fight bacteria. This design was then taken to a lab for testing. A man-made version shark scale pattern was imprinted into a strip of metal. The metal was placed into a cell culture dish next to another smooth piece of metal. Bacteria were then squirted into the dish and left to incubate for twenty-four hours. Following this, the cell culture dish was removed to inspect how much of the bacteria had grown. The bacteria was all over the smooth metal and it had created multiple colonies, while the shark scale designed piece of metal had only a few bacteria cells on it. This meant that the shark scale designed metal actually prevented and slowed down infection. The greatest fact about this is that it does not kill bacteria, it just slows them down. When bacteria are killed with sanitizers and substances like that, it leaves only the strongest strains alive. This creates a problem for the future which has to combat these super stains of bacteria.
Another material to be made more intelligent is a special coating that goes on a material that allows the material to heal itself almost instantaneously when it is punctured. The practical application for this material is that it can coat the outside of a fuel tank and if the fuel tank gets punctured, even by bullets, the fuel tank will leak little to no gasoline. This makes driving in places where the military is shot at more safe. Another military application for more intelligently designed materials world is a non-Newtonian fluid that is magnetic. This occurs from infusing particles of iron within the liquid. This fluid can be placed within shock absorber and with a little help from an electromagnet, it becomes a non-Newtonian shock absorber that is much more precise at handling rough driving conditions.
An amazing breakthrough in robotic applications came with the ability for a robot being designed to climb walls. Robots with pads designed like gecko feet have the ability to climb any surface. The applications for robots like this seems endless. They can be used to clean windows on skyscrapers, mounting security cameras, or even military intelligence. With further development of all the amazing materials in the world, the grasp of human understanding combined with our ability to imagine bigger and greater achievements, there is no limit to what humans can do.