Biomechanical Investigation of Insect Leg Joints
Insect leg joints endure millions of steps, jumps, and bending motions in their lifespan; and surpass the durability and frictional efficiency of most human-made mechanical devices. Relative to body length, insects exceed the height jumped by many animals and accelerate their bodies at a much faster rate. Furthermore, the exertion force of an insect joint is tens to several hundred times their body weight as exhibited by froghoppers (414 times), fleas (135 times), and locusts (8 times), vastly exceeding that of humans (2-3 times). However, although efficient functioning of insect joints has been recognized for a long time, the mechanism by which insect joints operate efficiently is still unknown. This research aims to fill this knowledge gap, and has two components for integrating research and education. The first component strives to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in academic research and the second concerns curriculum development. Considering that, for any machine to operate and move, energy must be provided to overcome friction. Minimizing the amount of energy lost to friction is a significant issue for society and industry. The outcomes of this project will be valuable to the development of innovative, energy-efficient, and durable coatings through bio-inspiration. The project will also involve an educational outreach program to the community and the integration of students into the research team.The overarching objective of this work is to generate a fundamental understanding of the principles that govern the operation and efficiency of insect joints. Specifically, this research will seek to determine what the main features of surface morphology of insect joints are and how these features influence the adhesion between insect joints; and also the role of their internal nanostructure on their mechanical properties such as modulus of elasticity and hardness. Furthermore, models relating the structural, adhesion, and mechanical properties with friction and wear will be developed. These tasks will be achieved using advance surface characterization techniques including atomic force microscopy, nanoindentation, and nanotribometry. Since structure-property relationship of biomaterials is one of the key contemporary issues in the fields of biomechanics and materials science, this activity has potential to advance the current state of art in this topic by determining structural and morphological properties of insect leg joints that have never been studied before. Furthermore, little is known about tribological properties of hierarchical nanostructures and insect leg joints. Hence, the outcomes of this project are bound to beneficial to the field of tribology and biotribology.