The oak-dwelling ironclad beetle is teaching humans how to build crush-proof products in commercial fields such as aeronautics and construction. They’ve been carrying out research on the beetle which is normally found on the western coast of North America. They can’t fly but they can withstand huge crushing forces thanks to a very special exoskeleton. The exoskeleton forewings called elytra are constructed in such a way that they can withstand being driven over by a vehicle and more. A vehicle would apply a force of about a hundred newtons if it ran over an ironclad beetle but they can withstand 150 newtons which is at least 39,000 times the insect’s body weight before the exoskeleton begins to fracture.
The experts say that the beetle’s strength lay in its two elytron, which join at a point called a suture running the length of the abdomen. It acts like a jigsaw puzzle connecting various exoskeleton blades in the abdomen. In order to test the strength of this beetle’s exoskeleton they submitted it to destructive tests. I hope the beetle was dead before they did the tests.
This special suture or joint in the abdomen is superior to joints commonly used in engineering. The lead researcher said that, “This work shows that we may be able to shift from using strong, brittle materials to ones that can be both strong and tough by dissipating energy as they break.”
The study was carried out by engineers at the University of California Irving and Perdue University and is published in Nature.