Scientists of materials discover structural secrets of nearly indestructible insects

Pablo Tucker
October 23, 2020

"The diabolical ironclad beetle has methods to avoid these limitations", Restrepo mentioned. Purdue researchers simulated this mechanism using 3D-printed versions of the blades.

The beetle, which no longer has its ancestors' ability to fly away from predators, has developed crush-resistant exoskeletal forewings - called elytra - as a form of protection, according to the new study published in the journal Nature.

They say the design increases the strength and toughness of the material.

"The suture kind of acts like a jigsaw puzzle".

The study shows just how fantastic this jigsaw puzzle is when more force is applied to the beetle's shell. A tire inflicts a force of around 100 newtons over the surface area of a beetle, which explains why they are able to survive the encounter without turning into roadkill. An analysis of the beetles' elytra - the hardened casings on top of each forewing - shows that the shields interlock like a 3D jigsaw puzzle and can deform under enormous weight without losing their shape. A series of tests were conducted on beetles collected from the Inland Empire region, which can be found in California, and the results observed by researchers have been quite impressive.

Now scientists have investigated the secrets of how the beetle can withstand forces up to 39,000 times its body weight.


The team hopes to develop solid materials to better understand how the Beetles face such forces.

Even a bodybuilder couldn't tackle this beetle.

Looking like it was forged in apocalyptic fires, the diabolical ironclad beetle has a formidable reputation for being able to withstand being stabbed or run over by a auto. "Instead, it delaminates, providing for a more graceful failure of the structure".

A cross section of the medial suture, where two halves of the diabolical ironclad beetle's elytra meet, shows the puzzle piece configuration that's among the keys to the insect's incredible durability. If the blades were to interlock too much or too little, the sudden release of energy would cause the beetle's neck to snap.

"An active engineering challenge is joining together different materials without limiting their ability to support loads".

The beetle species (phloeodes diabolicus) is less than an inch long (2cm) and its exoskeleton could inspire applications in construction and engineering fields such as aeronautics, experts say. They tested the capacity of such an interlocking structure to join various materials like metal and plastic.


"These fasteners ultimately decrease the performance of the system and need to be replaced every so often". This fastener adds weight and introduces stress that could lead to fractures and corrosion. Hosseini is now an engineering manager at Procter & Gamble Corp.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It is not just a suppositional expression, it had actually proved so after being tested.

In the structure of the beetle shell, nature offers an "interesting and elegant" alternative, Savattiri said.

"We can use these sutures - they are showing you the way the beetle does it - to improve the toughness of these", he said.

The new research, in fact, is part of an $8 million project funded by Gimm's office that looks to create new impact-resistant technologies that mimic the natural armor of animals.

Kisailus sent Rivera to work with Dula Parkinson and Harold Barnard at the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where they performed high-resolution experiments to pinpoint the changes within the structures in real time using extremely powerful X-rays.


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