This super-beetle can survive being run over by a car -- and help with engineering problems

Scientists developing new materials are studying an unlikely source of strength: The diabolical ironclad beetle, which can withstand being run over by a car.

Posted: Oct 22, 2020 4:10 AM


Scientists developing new materials are studying an unlikely source of strength: a beetle that can withstand being run over by a car.

Researchers from Purdue University and the University of California, Irvine, studied the aptly named diabolical ironclad beetle -- Phloeodes diabolicus -- to understand the secret behind its strength.

"If you take any beetle, and you want to collapse it with your finger, you can probably kill it," he told CNN.

But not the diabolical ironclad beetle. "This beetle is so tough that the energy or the force that you can do with your hand, it's not enough -- it's like a piece of rock," Pablo D. Zavattieri, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue and a study author, told CNN. "The tire of a car is not enough to collapse it."

The findings were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Experts wanted to understand why, in the hopes of re-creating such strength in construction materials.

Using advanced microscopy, spectroscopy and in situ mechanical testing, researchers identified the architectural designs within the creature's exoskeleton.

The scientists discovered that the diabolical ironclad beetle's super-toughness lies in its armor. The insect has two armorlike "elytron" -- used in flying beetles to deploy wings -- that meet at a line, called a suture, running the length of its abdomen.

Millions of years ago, most beetles flew, Zavattieri explained. "This particular beetle, as part of the evolution process, it doesn't fly any more," he said.

Though the diabolical ironclad beetle doesn't use its elyton for flight, the elytra and connective suture instead help to distribute applied force more evenly throughout the insect's body.

Zavattieri explained that the suture acts like a jigsaw puzzle, connecting the creature's various exoskeletal blades in the abdomen, which lock to prevent themselves from pulling out.

If the suture is broken, another protective mechanism also allows for the blades to deform slowly. That prevents a sudden release of energy, which would otherwise snap the beetle's neck.

Using steel plates, the team of researchers discovered that the creature can take an applied force of 150 newtons -- some 39,000 times its body weight -- before its exoskeleton starts to fracture.

A car tire would apply force of around 100 newtons if driving over the insect on a dirt surface, scientists said.

The team hopes that in better understanding how the beetle withstands such force, they can develop tougher materials.

One of the critical problems in engineering is connecting materials of different compositions, for example, connecting aluminum and steel, in fields like aerospace, Zavattieri told CNN.

For example, when building aircraft turbines, metals are often joined to composite materials with mechanical fasteners, which can add weight, introduce stress and ultimately lead to features and corrosion in the structure.

"We have the materials. One of the engineering issues is how to connect them," Zavattieri said.

"We can use these sutures -- they are showing you the way the beetle does it -- to improve the toughness of these," he said.

"This is a good example of how nature uses this connection," he said. "Every single time we look at nature, we learn something new."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 190804

Reported Deaths: 2528
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah37830583
Washington25279229
Marion21739306
Clackamas17107209
Lane12799145
Jackson10716135
Deschutes866973
Umatilla814084
Linn479867
Yamhill441175
Klamath430861
Polk369952
Malheur349861
Josephine330268
Douglas322070
Benton302619
Jefferson216734
Coos204633
Columbia170526
Union144423
Lincoln137020
Wasco137028
Hood River117930
Morrow110015
Crook106520
Clatsop9738
Baker94614
Curry6459
Tillamook6363
Grant5065
Lake4447
Harney3378
Wallowa1825
Gilliam621
Sherman581
Wheeler281
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3757115

Reported Deaths: 62280
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123542224008
Riverside2990644587
San Bernardino2965144697
San Diego2777593725
Orange2707055005
Santa Clara1188512085
Kern1089931373
Sacramento1041761672
Fresno1016251684
Alameda875851545
Ventura808421011
San Joaquin730091391
Contra Costa68503804
Stanislaus619161055
Tulare49554839
Monterey43563382
San Mateo41844568
San Francisco36616543
Santa Barbara34306453
Solano32752249
Merced31743458
Sonoma29975318
Imperial28352721
Kings22965246
Placer22550290
San Luis Obispo21282260
Madera16439242
Santa Cruz16188206
Marin14034228
Yolo13875209
Shasta12071226
Butte11943199
El Dorado10111112
Napa984981
Sutter9411111
Yuba622146
San Benito604863
Lassen569824
Tehama555358
Nevada470775
Tuolumne412364
Mendocino406149
Humboldt393539
Amador365147
Lake346743
Glenn238125
Colusa223016
Siskiyou218123
Calaveras212153
Inyo142638
Del Norte13678
Mono12804
Plumas7066
Modoc4954
Mariposa4457
Trinity3995
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned330
Medford
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 47°
Brookings
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 54°
Crater Lake
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 47°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 47°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 33°
Quiet Mother's Day Weekend
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Saturday, May 8th Evening Weather

Image

Saturday, May 8th Morning Weather

Image

Friday, May 7th Evening Weather

Image

Oregon Dept. of Education: Grants Pass SD

Image

Friday, May 7 morning weather

Image

Oregon Dept. of Education: Phoenix-Talent SD

Image

Medford Police Livability Team begins the process of cleaning up the Greenway

Image

Thursday, May 6th Evening Weather

Image

Thursday, May 6 morning weather

Image

Wednesday, May 5th Evening Weather