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      The principles of cascading power limits in small, fast biological and engineered systems

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          How the Venus flytrap snaps.

          The rapid closure of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) leaf in about 100 ms is one of the fastest movements in the plant kingdom. This led Darwin to describe the plant as "one of the most wonderful in the world". The trap closure is initiated by the mechanical stimulation of trigger hairs. Previous studies have focused on the biochemical response of the trigger hairs to stimuli and quantified the propagation of action potentials in the leaves. Here we complement these studies by considering the post-stimulation mechanical aspects of Venus flytrap closure. Using high-speed video imaging, non-invasive microscopy techniques and a simple theoretical model, we show that the fast closure of the trap results from a snap-buckling instability, the onset of which is controlled actively by the plant. Our study identifies an ingenious solution to scaling up movements in non-muscular engines and provides a general framework for understanding nastic motion in plants.
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            SOFT ROBOTICS. A 3D-printed, functionally graded soft robot powered by combustion.

            Roboticists have begun to design biologically inspired robots with soft or partially soft bodies, which have the potential to be more robust and adaptable, and safer for human interaction, than traditional rigid robots. However, key challenges in the design and manufacture of soft robots include the complex fabrication processes and the interfacing of soft and rigid components. We used multimaterial three-dimensional (3D) printing to manufacture a combustion-powered robot whose body transitions from a rigid core to a soft exterior. This stiffness gradient, spanning three orders of magnitude in modulus, enables reliable interfacing between rigid driving components (controller, battery, etc.) and the primarily soft body, and also enhances performance. Powered by the combustion of butane and oxygen, this robot is able to perform untethered jumping.
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              Design and mechanical properties of insect cuticle.

              Since nearly all adult insects fly, the cuticle has to provide a very efficient and lightweight skeleton. Information is available about the mechanical properties of cuticle-Young's modulus of resilin is about 1 MPa, of soft cuticles about 1 kPa to 50 MPa, of sclerotised cuticles 1-20 GPa; Vicker's Hardness of sclerotised cuticle ranges between 25 and 80 kgf mm(-2); density is 1-1.3 kg m(-3)-and one of its components, chitin nanofibres, the Young's modulus of which is more than 150 GPa. Experiments based on fracture mechanics have not been performed although the layered structure probably provides some toughening. The structural performance of wings and legs has been measured, but our understanding of the importance of buckling is lacking: it can stiffen the structure (by elastic postbuckling in wings, for example) or be a failure mode. We know nothing of fatigue properties (yet, for instance, the insect wing must undergo millions of cycles, flexing or buckling on each cycle). The remarkable mechanical performance and efficiency of cuticle can be analysed and compared with those of other materials using material property charts and material indices. Presented in this paper are four: Young's modulus-density (stiffness per unit weight), specific Young's modulus-specific strength (elastic hinges, elastic energy storage per unit weight), toughness-Young's modulus (fracture resistance under various loading conditions), and hardness (wear resistance). In conjunction with a structural analysis of cuticle these charts help to understand the relevance of microstructure (fibre orientation effects in tendons, joints and sense organs, for example) and shape (including surface structure) of this fibrous composite for a given function. With modern techniques for analysis of structure and material, and emphasis on nanocomposites and self-assembly, insect cuticle should be the archetype for composites at all levels of scale.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Science
                Science
                American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
                0036-8075
                1095-9203
                April 26 2018
                April 26 2018
                April 27 2018
                : 360
                : 6387
                : eaao1082
                Article
                10.1126/science.aao1082
                29700237
                97060a77-0ae8-4cd1-adf1-beaef7b6e4ad
                © 2018

                http://www.sciencemag.org/about/science-licenses-journal-article-reuse

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