Video: The Delicate Flutter of Robotic Butterfly Wings

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaMay 21, 2010 8:15 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Butterfly in the sky, researchers wonder how you fly. To this end, Harvard University's Hiroto Tanaka and the University of Tokyo's Isao Shimoyama have built a butterfly doppelganger by combining angelic plastic wings, balsa wood, and rubber bands. The exact model for this "ornithopter" is the swallowtail: Tanaka and Shimoyama mimicked the exact size and weight of a flesh-and-bloodmember of the Papilionidae family. They even made detailed plastic veins on their butterfly's polymer wings. As the BBC reports, a high-speed video of their model's flight allowed Tanaka and Shimoyama to calculate the forces on the insect's wings. Also, by constructing the butterfly themselves, they could determine the essential bug pieces for forward flight. They found, for example, that those pretty veins are a must, but that the creatures need not continually adjust their wings during flight as other insects do. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics will publish their complete paper in June. Given existing robotic caterpillars, is anyone thinking Transformer? Related content: 80beats: Monarch Butterflies Navigate With Sun-Sensing Antennae Not Exactly Rocket Science: Caterpillars must walk before they can anally scrape Not Exactly Rocket Science: Butterflies evolve resistance to male-killing bacteria in record time DISCOVER: The Calculating Beauty of Butterflies (photo gallery)

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.