A small, secretive creature with unlikely qualifications for defying gravity may hold the answer to an entirely new way of getting off the ground.
Salamanders—or at least several species of the Plethodontidae family—can do something humans would like to know a lot more about.
“This particular jump is unique in the world,” said graduate researcher Anthony Hessel. “That’s why I think a lot of people are finding this very interesting.”
The Northern Arizona University student calls the move a “hip-twist jump” that powers a “flat catapult,” describing the biomechanics in language the public can access. But the work has caught the attention of a highly technical crowd.
Hessel, who studies muscle physiology and biomechanics, recalled the moment he fully grasped the reach of his findings. An email from a premier journal reached him over the holiday break with the subject line “Science is interested in your work.” The contact arose from his presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology symposium. There will likely be more who are interested.
“It’s a new way to get vertical lift for animals,” Hessel said. “Something that is flat on the ground, that is not pushing directly down on the ground, can still get up in the air. I’d say that hundreds of engineers will now toy with the idea and figure out what cool things can be built from it.”
Hessel used high-speed film, a home-built cantilever beam apparatus, some well-established engineering equations and biomechanical analysis to produce the details of how a slippery little amphibian with short legs can propel itself six to 10 times its body length into the air.
The key is that the salamander’s legs don’t provide the push that most creatures would require.
“They transfer energy from their torso into the ground in a very special way,” Hessel said. “It’s all about how the energy is transferred into the ground efficiently.”
In describing the movement frame-by-frame from the high-speed film, Hessel said the salamander bends its body, then rapidly pushes that bend—a “C” shape, down through the torso—and this movement can “create a lot of elastic energy.”
“One of the interesting things about the salamander is that the mechanism moves the center of mass in a way that allows this really inefficient-looking mechanism to have a lot of efficiency,” Hessel said.
The next stage of the research is “getting down to the structures of the stiffness properties,” Hessel said. “When you see that there’s more power in the jump that can come from the muscles, then you know there are other places where you have to look, like stored elastic energy, connective tissue stretching and bones moving.”
One of those factors may be the protein titin, an active loader mechanism that is the focus of research by Hessel’s mentor, Regents’ Professor Kiisa Nishikawa. Her interdisciplinary lab group has provided valuable input throughout the project, Hessel said.
For now, the student from Long Island, N.Y., will write and publish his findings to complete his master’s degree, with plans to pursue a doctorate at NAU. Although the salamanders he brought with him from Allegheny College, his undergraduate institution, are not making a return trip to Pennsylvania, the same species is being studied at a lab there to continue the research, which Hessel will oversee himself this summer.
Eric Dieterle | Newswise
Stick insects produce bacterial enzymes themselves
31.05.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
New Model of T Cell Activation
27.05.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Physicists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich in collaboration with scientists from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg have observed a light-matter phenomenon in nano-optics, which lasts only attoseconds.
The interaction between light and matter is of key importance in nature, the most prominent example being photosynthesis. Light-matter interactions have also...
A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.
The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...
Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...
In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...
Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices
Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
19.05.2016 | Event News
31.05.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
31.05.2016 | Life Sciences
31.05.2016 | Information Technology