Jul 28, 2023

A butterfly’s first flight inspires a new way to produce force and electricity

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, engineering

The wings of a butterfly are made of chitin, an organic polymer that is the main component of the shells of arthropods like crustaceans and other insects. As a butterfly emerges from its cocoon in the final stage of metamorphosis, it will slowly unfold its wings into their full grandeur.

During the unfolding, the chitinous material becomes dehydrated while blood pumps through the veins of the butterfly, producing forces that reorganize the molecules of the material to provide the unique strength and stiffness necessary for flight. This natural combination of forces, movement of water, and molecular organization is the inspiration behind Associate Professor Javier G. Fernandez’s research.

Alongside fellow researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Fernandez has been exploring the use of chitinous polymers as a sustainable material for engineering applications.

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