Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tiny dancers: Can ballet bugs help us build better robots?

21.10.2015

High-speed cameras capture spider crickets' aerial acrobatics

When it's time to design new robots, sometimes the best inspiration can come from Mother Nature. Take, for example, her creepy, but incredibly athletic spider crickets.


If spider crickets were as large as humans, how far could they jump?

Credit: Royce Faddis/Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins engineering students and their professor have spent more than eight months unraveling the hopping skills, airborne antics and safe-landing patterns of these pesky insects that commonly lurk in the dark corners of damp basements.

The team, which hopes to pave the way for a new generation of small but skillful jumping robots, will present its findings Nov. 23 during a poster session in Boston at the 68th annual meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics.

Caption: Undergraduate researcher Emily Palmer and one of her spider cricket subjects. (Credit: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University)

The Johns Hopkins team members believe non-human creatures may be the best models in designing mechanical helpers to carry out certain important tasks. Figuring out how critters move, they say, could lead to planetary rovers that crawl like caterpillars or winged drones that hover like hummingbirds.

So what design tips did the researchers manage to glean from these spindly six-legged bugs?

For one thing, the Johns Hopkins researchers were able to use high-speed video cameras to collect tantalizing clues about how these tiny wingless creatures can somehow leap a distance equal to about 60 times their body length. That's a feat far beyond what any human track star could accomplish. An adult human who wanted to replicate the cricket's leap would have to jump 300 feet or more--roughly the length of a football field. And, most times, spider crickets manage to land safely on their feet. How, the researchers wanted to know, can these tiny bugs accomplish this?

"Because they don't have wings, the main things they use during their 'flight' to stabilize their posture is their limbs," said Emily Palmer, a sophomore mechanical engineering major in the university's Whiting School of Engineering who is doing much of the testing. "We're looking at the way the spider crickets move their bodies and move their limbs to stabilize their posture during a jump."

And why would such knowledge be useful?

"Ultimately, the application would be in really tiny robots," said Palmer, who is from Exeter, N.H. Deploying tiny high-jumping robots to travel over rugged, uneven ground, she said, would utilize a more efficient and probably less expensive form of locomotion, compared to flying robots or humans on foot.

To get a clear, close-up view of the crickets' limber limbs in action, the team's three video cameras each snap 400 frames per second. Then, by slowing down the finished footage, the researchers see precisely how each spindly insect leg contributed to the amazing leaps and landings.

Rajat Mittal, the Johns Hopkins mechanical engineering professor who is supervising the research, was startled to see that, in slow-motion, the crickets' limb movements bore an uncanny resemblance to classical dance.

"These videos have actually been quite eye-opening," he said, "because it's only when you slow these critters down that you really start to see the beauty and the intricacy of their movement. The analogy that comes to mind is of a ballerina performing a ballet. It's a very beautiful, controlled, intricate motion."

But Mittal and his students found that beneath such artistic movements lie some serious lessons in aerodynamics. The slow-motion playback confirmed that during the "flight" segment of their jumps, the crickets carefully use their limbs and even perhaps their antennae to stabilize their posture and prepare for a safe landing. The crickets seek to land on their feet, the researchers said, so that they can quickly be prepared to leap again to escape any predators that are waiting to pounce.

Some of the video footage yielded surprises. The team discovered that as the crickets soared upward during the early part of their jumps, the bugs streamlined their bodies like a projectile to maximize the distance they would travel. "They really are masters of aerodynamics," Mittal said.

Captured by the lab's cameras, this aerial mastery was transferred to computers to create detailed three-dimensional models depicting how each insect's body parts move during a leap and a touchdown. Mittal suggested that a new generation of jumping micro-robots modeled on these crickets might someday be able to help look for victims after a powerful earthquake or carry out other tasks without putting humans searchers at risk.

###

Other participants in this research project were Noah Cowan, a Johns Hopkins associate professor of mechanical engineering; David Gorman and Catarina Neves, both Johns Hopkins undergraduate seniors majoring in mechanical engineering; and Nicolas Deshler, a high school intern who is currently in his senior year at Washington International School in Washington, D.C. Deshler's participation was supported by the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, funded by the National Science Foundation and administered at Johns Hopkins by the university's Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

Video footage, still photos and an info graphic are available; contact Phil Sneiderman.

Media Contact

Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-997-9907

 @JohnsHopkins

http://www.jhu.edu 

Phil Sneiderman | EurekAlert!

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht How protons move through a fuel cell
22.06.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Fraunhofer IZFP acquires lucrative EU project for increasing nuclear power plant safety
21.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zerstörungsfreie Prüfverfahren IZFP

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>