Skip to main content

Biomechanical gears system for insect jumping

Do you think that gear mechanisms, which intermesh and rotate, are solely man-made? You were right until the research results were published. Scientists from the University of Cambridge revealed functioning biomechanical gears for the first time in the flightless planthopper insect Issus. The gears are used in ballistic jumping movements of the insect.

Follow the University of Cambridge website the gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box. Tooths of gears are rounded at the point it connects to the gear strip such as bike gears. It is a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off. Each gear strip is around 400 micrometres long and had both sides of the gear in each leg containing 10 to 12 teeth, which gives a gearing ratio of 1:1. 

Unlike man-made symmetric shape gears which allow to work in both rotational directions, each gear tooth of insect's gear is asymmetrical and curved towards the point where the cogs interlock. It is because the Issus gears are only powering one way to launch the animal forward. The teeths on the opposing hind-legs of insect lock together and ensure almost complete synchronicity in leg movement. The synchronicity ensure, that the legs move within 30 ‘microseconds’ of each other. You can ask, why insect need such as biomechanical gear mechanism. The evolution 'shaped it' for the powerful jumps that are Issus’s primary mode of transport and capabilities of gear mechanism would be impossible to obtain using insect's nervous system. Lead author Professor Malcolm Burrows, from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology said:

This precise synchronisation would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight coordination required.

To start the jump, Issus send nerve signals to its muscles to produce force to starts to propel legs. Even miniscule discrepancies in synchronisation between the velocities of both legs would result deviation from the path of movement. Biogear allow Issus just to send nerve signals to its muscles to produce roughly the same amount of force to starts to propel one leg. Then if one leg starts to propel the jump the gears will interlock, creating absolute synchrony and the insect can move to its intended destination. So such a solution solve a complex problem that the brain and nervous system can’t. Co-author Gregory Sutton, now at the University of Bristol said:
These gears are not designed; they are evolved - representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronisation in the animal world.
Interestingly, the Issus loses its hind-leg gears on reaching adulthood, when insects cast off rigid skin at key points in their development in order to grow. It’s not yet known why, but probably the problem is if one tooth on the gear breaks, the effectiveness of the whole mechanism is damaged. In nymphs could be repaired in the next molt, any damage in adulthood remains permanent.


You might also like

    Popular posts

    What is Mechatronics?

    Mechatronics definition Mechatronics is a synergistic combination of precision engineering, electronic control and mechanic systems. It is the science, that exists at the interface among the other five disciplines: mechanics, electronics, informatics, automation, robotics. It is one of the most dynamically developing fields of technology and science. The word 'mechatronics' appeared for the first time in Japan in 1969. mechatronics = mecha nics + elec tronics + computing

    Ascento - The Two-Wheeled Jumping Robot

    All-terrain capabilities are required to extend beyond flat surfaces the application range of wheeled robots. First think is four or six-legged robots which have been well known for years. Nowadays, thanks to more and more perfect gait algorithms, the two-legged (bipedal) robots appears more and more often. ETH Zürich students combine the advantages of wheeled robot and two-legged robot.

    Automatic Sorting of Skittles or M&Ms by Colour

    Do you sort M&Ms or Skittles by colour before eating them?  For example, eat all the yellow ones first, then the red ones, then the blue and so on. Brian Egenriether, an electrical engineer, decided to make a small machine that looked like an appliance, which could perform these tasks automatically. This mechatronics project took him about 5 weekends to make. The use of the machine is very simple: pour Skittles or M&Ms into it, push a button and have candies sorted. Let us look at the construction.

    Mechatronics System as the Future of Cooking at Home

    Do you get up in the morning and don't feel like making breakfast? One of the solutions is food delivery service, which leaves your takeout order outside of your front door. Other solution is a private chef who is responsible for shopping for food, menu planning, preparing and cooking meals for you. But if you love mechatronics systems, your solution is a mechatronic kitchen. It allows you to save time, free up your day from routine cooking, plan and adapt your menu according to different diets and lifestyles.

    Stretch - Boston Dynamics Unveils New Robot for Warehouse Automation

    Boston Dynamics is the global leader in mobile robotics. Their popular robots are SpotMini, Spot, Atlas and Handle. Now they has revealed 'Stretch', which is a new box-moving robot designed to support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry. A Massachusetts company well known for its humanoid robots and dog-like androids is preparing to muscle its way into the warehouse automation industry with its latest mechatronic solution. Warehouse automation is a fast-growing market fueled by increased demand in e-commerce. The robot called Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ first commercial robot specifically designed for warehouse facilities and distribution centers. Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics said: Warehouses are struggling to meet rapidly increasing demand as the world relies more on just-in-time delivery of goods. Mobile robots enable the flexible movement of materials and improve working conditions for employees. Stretch

    Three Wheels Balancing Robot

    The three wheels balancing robot is similar to a ballbot from the point of view of the goal. In comparison to ballbot which balance itself on a single ball, three wheels balancing robot is designed to balance itself on a single rod. The common characteristics of this kind of robots is that there’s one sole contact point to the ground.

    DIY Low Cost 6-Axis Desktop Robot

    Learning how to build a robot is a long way. It is the way by mechanics, electronics and programming. Such a mechatronics project is associated with problems such as stiffness (mechanics), overvoltage (electronics) or bug (software). Of course, if something is wrong, we always say 'it's not a bug, it's a feature', but finally a robot has to start working properly.

    Theo Jansen Strandbeest

    Theodorus Gerardus Jozef "Theo" Jansen is a Dutch artist. Theo Jansen 's mechanism (named strandbeest - "beach animal") allows to perform walking motion. The advantage is that the required power of the engine used in the mechanism, must be sufficient to transfer only the legs (not transported elements). He invented that in 1991.