Skip to comments.Flea's giant leap for mankind
Posted on 10/13/2005 11:58:35 PM PDT by sourcery
Fleas use it to perform leaps that would make Olympic high jumpers green with envy. Bees use it to flap their wings without tiring.
Now Australian scientists have achieved a world first by copying resilin, the "rubber" insects employ to accomplish such athletic feats.
Future versions of the material could be used to make resilient spare parts, including spinal discs and artificial arteries.
Chris Elvin, from CSIRO Livestock Industries in Brisbane, spent four years reproducing nature's "near perfect rubber". Dr Elvin said yesterday: "Nature had a couple of hundred million years of evolution do it. All insects have it. It gives them almost frictionless movement.
"Fleas have a pad of it in their legs. They squeeze and compress it, storing energy in it." When they want to jump "they release all that energy in a millisecond".
If humans had such pads they could leap 100-storey buildings.
Dragonflies and bees use resilin to beat their wings all day long.
"Bees can flap their wings 720,000 times an hour," he said. "In their lifetimes they must flap their wings 500 million times." The scientists initially cloned the fruit fly gene that naturally produces the material. It was then put into bacteria, creating a biological "factory" to reproduce it as a liquid. The liquid was then cured under projector bulbs to form a workable solid. "We currently make sufficient material for research purposes, but this could be scaled up for commercial use," Dr Elvin said. "It looks a bit spaghetti [but] we can cast it in any shape."
Dr Elvin predicted the substance would lead to everything from artificial arteries to spinal parts that would not wear out despite being flexed 100 million times.
"That's how many times you move your back in 50 or 60 years," he said. It could also be used in micro electronics. "We even imagine putting it in running shoes."
However, Dr Elvin, whose work has been published in Nature, said making artificial human parts was at least a decade away.
The team he stitched together to study resilin includes three other CSIRO divisions - Textiles and Fibre Technology, Molecular and Health Technologies and Manufacturing and Infrastructure Technologies, along with Queensland University, the Australian National University, Monash University and the University of South Australia. They are seeking commercial partners to develop the material. "Some of the markets we are looking at are worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year."
Paging Nike ... white courtesy telephone for Nike ...
Thank you & bump for list linking!
Nancy Pelosi can flap her lips 55,000 times a minute.
Interesting article. Alas, I've already deployed the ping list twice this morning, so I'll have to pass on this one.
Catch up bump for later!
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