Insect wing tougher than man-made substances

Dublin, Aug 23 (IANS) The seemingly fragile insect wings are much tougher than many man-made substances that combine the best of technology and the latest advances in science.

fwire August 24, 2012 00:01:46 IST
Insect wing tougher than man-made substances

Dublin, Aug 23 (IANS) The seemingly fragile insect wings are much tougher than many man-made substances that combine the best of technology and the latest advances in science.

The finding may potentially inspire the design of more durable and lightweight artificial 'venous' wings for micro-air-vehicles. It might also heighten interest in the winged properties of extinct insect species.

"The desert locusts are the marathon flyers of the insect world," says Jan-Henning Dirks, who studied the properties of their wings together with David Taylor, professor of mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Trinity College, Dublin.

"These grasshoppers can fly for days across deserts and oceans with wings 10 times thinner than a human hair," says Taylor.

During these long journeys the wings of the grasshoppers have to withstand hundreds of thousands of wing beats without failure. What is their secret? The journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.

Like all insect body parts, the wings are made from cuticle, which is the second-most common natural material in the world.

"We recently showed that the cuticle of the grasshopper legs is one of the toughest natural materials in the world," says Taylor. "Now we wanted to know whether this is true for the locust wings, too."

To measure the toughness of the wings, the team cut small notches into the wing's membrane and measured the force needed to drive the crack through the wing, according to a Trinity statement.

"We were quite surprised when our first experiments showed that the membrane of the wings alone was not very tough." said Dirks. "We were expecting the membrane to be at least as tough as the legs."

However, when Dirks and Taylor looked at the videos they recorded, they found that most cracks were effectively stopped once they ran into a cross vein. These minute crack barriers increased the wing's toughness by 50 percent. So if these veins are so good in stopping cracks, why not have more of them?

"Compared to the thin wing membrane, the wing veins are relatively heavy. Therefore, you want as few veins as possible to keep the weight of the wing low," said Dirks.

However, as the videos demonstrate, with fewer veins in the wing, there is less protection against cracks. "It is like the watertight compartments in a ship. With too many compartments, the ship gets too heavy. With too few, a single hole can sink the entire ship," explained Dirks.

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

First phase of National Family Health Survey-5 shows startling trends in out-of-pocket health expenses
India

First phase of National Family Health Survey-5 shows startling trends in out-of-pocket health expenses

The time has come for India to legislate a ‘Right to Health’ ensure everyone can access healthcare without risking falling prey to poverty.

Narendra Modi visits Assam: AASU, Opposition slam PM for avoiding references to CAA, other key issues
Politics

Narendra Modi visits Assam: AASU, Opposition slam PM for avoiding references to CAA, other key issues

The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) staged sit-in demonstrations across the state with black clothes tied to their face during the prime minister's visit to Sivasagar to distribute land 'pattas'

For West Bengal's indigenous communities, farming innovations reduce dependence on forest reserves
Lifestyle

For West Bengal's indigenous communities, farming innovations reduce dependence on forest reserves

The situation was vastly different some years ago, when water was scarce, farming was not an option and the community was forced to venture into the forest to earn a living. They encountered elephants, leopards and other wild animals in the reserve.