Insect Legs May Provide a Breakthrough in Aircraft Design

July 16, 2015, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

How does an insect get related with aircraft? They both fly, of course.

But that not the sole line of bondage between the two, as scientists are now researching to fetch the stress-handling features of insect legs into aircraft design.

Led by David Taylor, the scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, have been looking for the remedies to pip out buckling issues in the tubular structures used for truss fuselages in light-weight aircraft.


Loading conditions for these trusses usually come unpredictable, further made complicated by the non-uniform cross section of the tubes. Often they lead to failures in load-handling.

It was under this predicament they decided to take up some inspiration from insect legs, which in a way counter-deals with this type of buckling.

Buckling of insects like locusts, cockroaches, stick insects and bees bend were scrutinized for this, with each of them possessing distinct cross-sections on their limbs.

After close observation, they found out that various insects adopted various techniques to overcome buckling issues, some even irrespective of the cross-sectional shapes.

Among such were stick insects, which made use of the multiple ridges in their legs to deal with buckling.

Of the rest, locusts and cockroaches had near-circular cross sections, which even tend to break when they perform actions like jumping, the reason being it’s hollow build.

Bees were found to have triangular cross-sections, which is now making the scientists think deeper about non-circular cross sectional designs that doesn’t compromise mechanical strength.

Scientists still believe they have only covered the ground work with their study, adding that not much has been known about the arthropod cuticle, despite it being a common material.

The next step of these researchers will be to study the stress-impact upon these insects and to observe the reactions.

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