Thursday, 18 May 2017

Ladybird wings could help change design of umbrellas for first time in 1,000 years

Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
15 May 2017 • 8:00pm 

Ladybirds could be key to building an umbrella that does not blow inside out on a windy day, scientists believe.

The colourful beetle manages to pack its wings away in complex origami-like folds beneath its carapace, before opening them out into a fixed, strong membrane in flight.

Until now, the folding mechanisms has remained a mystery because nobody could see beneath the outer spotty forewings, known as elytra.

But scientists in Japan created a see-through forewing out of transparent resin and transplanted onto a ladybird to provide a literal window into the process.

They say it will help explain how the elastic wings can maintain their strength and rigidity in flight, a finding that could improve the design of umbrellas, satellites, microscopic medical instruments and fans.

"I believe that beetle wing folding has the potential to change the umbrella design that has been basically unchanged for more than 1000 years, " said Assistant Professor Kazuya Saito of the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science.

"Usually, transformable structures require a lot of parts including joints and rigid parts bu ladybugs effectively use flexibility and elastic behaviour in the structures and achieve complex transformation by very simple structures

"Frames of collapsible umbrellas have many parts and easily to be broken at joints. The ladybug umbrella will be made by seamless flexible frames therefore indestructible even in strong wind, and able to be deployed very quickly by using stored elastic energy."

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