Researchers first to show hinge morphology of click beetle's latch mechanism

February 18, 2019, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Aimy Wissa, assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering (MechSE) at Illinois, leads an interdisciplinary research team to study click beetles to inspire more agile robots. The team, which includes MechSE Assistant Professor Alison Dunn and Dr. Marianne Alleyne, a research scientist in the Department of Entomology, recently presented their ongoing and novel work on the quick release mechanism of click beetles at the 2019 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) Annual Meeting.

Ophelia Bolmin, a in Wissa's Bio-inspired Adaptive Morphology (BAM) Lab, presented novel synchrotron X-ray footage that showed the internal latch mechanism of the click beetle, and demonstrated for the first time to the how the hinge morphology and mechanics enable this unique clicking mechanism. The presentation, "The click beetle latch mechanism: An in-vivo study using synchrotron X-rays," was part of an invited symposium on mechanisms of energy flow in organismal movement.

This work builds on research that was initiated by the Illinois team nearly two years ago, detailing the click beetles' legless self-righting jumping mechanism. The team already built prototypes of a hinge-like spring-loaded device that are being incorporated into a robot.

Rather minimal research had been performed on the click beetle's click mechanism in the past, and the Illinois team is the first to explore the insect within the field of bio-inspiration—using inspiration from nature for innovative engineered designs. They continue to be at the forefront of this research, and further studies are scheduled to be published in coming months.

University of Illinois Mechanical Science and Engineering professor Aimy Wissa and her colleagues at Illinois were the first to study the click beetle's unique ability to jump without using their legs, unlike most animals and insects. The beetle is segmented by a hinge, which allows it to invert and then flex into a near vertical jump, using it as a way to reposition after becoming inverted. The researchers are creating a self-righting mechanism for autonomous robots inspired by the click beetle, and have led the way for several years in this novel concept. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering

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