Navigation Links
University of Tennessee engineering professor looks to whirligig beetle for bio-inspired robots

Whirligig beetles are named for their whirling movement on top of water, moving rapidly in and taking off into flight.

While many may have found the movements curious, scientists have puzzled over the apparatus behind their energy efficiencyuntil now, thanks to a study performed by a team led by Mingjun Zhang, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

"The propulsive efficiency of the species has been claimed in literature to be one of the highest measured for a thrust-generating apparatus within the animal kingdom," Zhang said. "But nobody knew exactly why, so we conducted a quantitative study with experiment support that uncovered this mystery."

Zhang saw the curious beetle as inspiration for developing energy-efficient propulsion mechanisms for swimming vehicles and robots. His team discovered separate leg functions, alternative patterns of leg propulsion, a unique take-off technique and maximizing surface area as key to the beetle's inner workings.

The findings have been published in this month's PLOS Computational Biology.

His team performed a combination of microscopic high-speed imaging, dynamics modeling and simulations to unlock the beetle's secret.

They discovered each of the beetle's three pairs of legs conducts a different function. Their curved swimming trajectories gained energy efficient over linear trajectories by alternating the ways leg propelled. Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that the beetles beat their legs in different directions in order to transition from swimming to diving. This provides the force required to alter the angle of the body's tilt and break the surface tension of water. Finally, the swimming legs rely on the extension of "swimming laminae" to increase the surface area and generate larger thrust.

"Nature folds the laminae, or a thin tissue, after the beetle is done moving its legs," Zhang said. "It extends it when it is propelling to generate thrust. The legs may also be oriented at different angles, so that the maximum area is not perpendicular to the direction in which the beetle is moving. I am always amazed how nature does this with the small organism."

Zhang's team looks to nature for inspiration in engineering. By studying the movements of the whirligig beetle, the team is applying nature's principles to bio-inspired swimming and diving robots. He is designing the robots for the Office of Naval Research through their Young Investigator Program award which he received in 2011. The award gives him $170,000 in annual research grants for three years.


Contact: Whitney Heins
University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related biology news :

1. University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible
2. University of Alberta led research may have discovered how memories are encoded in our brains
3. BGI, University of Helsinki and Wuhan University sign a MOU concerning cooperation on genomics
4. Marshall University study may lead to new treatments for prostate cancer
5. University leads £6 million EU project to tackle obesity
6. A University of Tennessee professors hypothesis may be game changer for evolutionary theory
7. Life expectancy may affect when you get married, divorced, have kids: Queens University study
8. University of Toronto biologists predict extinction for organisms with poor quality genes
9. University of Minnesota invention helps advance reliability of alternative energy
10. Israel names Tel Aviv Universitys Renewable Energy Center a Center of Research Excellence
11. University of Minnesota startup offers game-changing energy solutions that reduce CO2 emissions
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/24/2017)... The Controller General of Immigration from Maldives Mr. Mohamed Anwar ... the prestigious international IAIR Award for the most innovative high security ePassport ... ... Maldives Immigration Controller General, Mr. ... on the right) have received the IAIR award for the "Most innovative ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... 2017 The report "Gesture Recognition and Touchless Sensing Market ... - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to ... between 2017 and 2022. Continue Reading ... ... ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... Lithuania , March 21, 2017   ... and object recognition technologies, today announced the release ... kit (SDK), which provides improved facial recognition using ... cameras on a single computer. The new version ... to improve accuracy, and it utilizes a Graphing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... business process optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a ... in San Francisco. , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... At its national board ... Stubbs, a professor in Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected ... member of the winning team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics for ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... technologies, launched its ProxiMeta™ Hi-C metagenome deconvolution product, featuring the first commercially ... cloud-based bioinformatics software to perform Hi-C metagenome deconvolution using their own facilities, ...
(Date:10/5/2017)... ... October 05, 2017 , ... LabRoots , the leading provider of educational ... is giving back to cancer research with a month-long promotion supporting the advancement of ... 31, shoppers can use promo code PinkRibbon to get 10 percent off their purchase ...
Breaking Biology Technology: