This is a beetle that can withstand bird strikes, animal stomping, and even the knockdown of a Toyota Camry Scientists are currently investigating what the bug’s crash-resistant shell could teach them about designing stronger planes and buildings
« This beetle is very tough, » said Pablo Zavattieri, a civil engineer at Purdue University, who was part of a group of researchers who ran over the insect with a car in a new study
So how does this seemingly indestructible insect do? The species – aptly named the Devilish Leather Beetle – owes its power to unusual armor that is layered and pieced together like a puzzle, according to the study by Zavattieri and colleagues published in Nature on Wednesday. And its design, they say, could help inspire more sustainable structures and vehicles
To understand what gives the inch-long beetle its strength, researchers first tested how much crush it could take in The species, which is found in southern forests from California, has withstood compression of approximately 39,000 times its own weight
The researchers then used electron microscopes and CT scans to examine the beetle’s exoskeleton and determine what made it so strong
As is often the case with flightless beetles, the species’ elytra – a protective sheath that normally envelops the wings – had grown stronger and hardened over time. Up close, scientists realized that this cover also benefited from special puzzle-shaped bindings and layered architecture.
« When you pull them apart, » Zavattieri said, « it doesn’t break catastrophically It just warps a little bit It’s crucial for the beetle »
It could also be useful for engineers who design airplanes and other vehicles and buildings with a variety of materials such as steel, plastic and plaster Currently engineers rely on pins, bolts, welds and adhesives to keep everything together But these techniques can tend to degrade
In the structure of the beetle shell, nature offers an « interesting and elegant » alternative, Zavattieri said
Because the scarab-inspired design fractures in a gradual and predictable manner, the cracks could be inspected more reliably for safety reasons, said Po-Yu Chen, an engineer at National Taiwan’s Tsing Hua University. , not involved in research
The beetle study is part of an $ 8 million U.S. Air Force-funded project to explore how the biology of creatures such as mantis shrimp and bighorn sheep could help develop materials impact resistant
« We are trying to go beyond what nature has done, » said David Kisailus, study co-author, engineer and materials scientist at the University of California at Irvine.
The research is the latest effort to borrow from the natural world to solve human problems, said Brown University evolutionary biologist Colin Donihue, who was not involved in the study. Velcro, for example, was inspired by the hook-shaped structure of plant burrs Artificial adhesives took a page of super sticky gecko feet
Donihue said countless other traits found in nature may offer insight: « These are adaptations that have evolved over millennia »
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education The PA is solely responsible for all content
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