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Nature's phenomena might teach Virginia Tech engineers new tricks
Date:2/19/2013

Lizards and frogs are about to take up residence in the laboratories of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering.

The engineers and scientists want to learn more about the water-running lizard's ability to dart across a water surface. In engineering terms, that means how it increases its locomotion efficiency by producing more force on its power stroke and less drag on its recovery stroke.

And these engineers are surprised at how some frog species can jump out of the water, starting from a submerged position, using only one power stroke, to catch a flying insect that may be some 40 centimeters or three times its body length above the surface. As problem-solvers, they want to understand how this small reptile achieves such high propulsion.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is also curious. The government agency has a Physics of Living program that funds research projects at the interface of biology, mathematical modeling, physics, and engineering. NSF has awarded Sunghwan Jung, principal investigator, along with Jake Socha, http://www.esm.vt.edu/people/active/jjsocha/jjsocha-bio.html, both assistant professors of engineering science and mechanics, and Pavlos Vlachos, http://www.me.vt.edu/_bios/_primary/vlachos_bio.html, professor of mechanical engineering, a little over a half a million dollars to investigate the water entry and exit problems that are apparent in engineering mechanics based on a better understanding of biology.

"Since there are no engineered systems that operate under conditions similar to these reptiles and amphibians, we have an opportunity to learn how nature effectively uses the interaction of these forces. From our findings we hope to be able to develop bio-inspired systems such as faster dipping and coating processes for material
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Contact: Lynn Nystrom
tansy@vt.edu
540-231-4371
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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