Mimicking the woodpecker to inspire new-age shock absorbers

Written by: Ani
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London, Feb 5 (ANI): A new study from the University of California attempts to mimic the woodpecker's pecking action in order to apply it to new-age shock absorbing systems.

Sang-Hee Yoon and Sungmin Park studied video and CT scans of the bird's head and neck and found that it has four structures that absorb mechanical shock.

A woodpecker's head experiences decelerations of 1200g as it drums on a tree at up to 22 times per second.

The bird's hard-but-elastic beak, hard-but-elastic beak behind the skull, hard-but-elastic beak and the way the skull and cerebrospinal fluid interact to suppress vibration, all contribute to its ability to withstand severe deceleration.

The two built a model that mimicked all these structures and found their system protected the electronics ensconced within it against shocks of up to 60,000g. Today's flight recorders can withstand shocks of 1000g.

"We now know how to prevent the fracture of microdevices from mechanical shock. An institute in Korea is now looking into some military applications for the technology," New Scientist quoted Yoon as saying.

The shock absorber could also be used in "bunker-busting" bombs and protecting spacecraft from collisions with micrometeorites and space debris.

The find could also help crash protection for drivers taking part in motorsport.

"One big issue with Formula One is protecting the driver by getting them to decelerate in an accident situation in such a way that his internal organs and brain aren't turned to mush," said Nick Fry, chief executive of Formula One team Mercedes GP Petronas based in Brackley, UK.

"We do that with clever design of composites, very sophisticated seatbelts and a head and neck restraint system," Fry said.

"But this research might be something we can draw on in future - it could be very interesting."

The study appears in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. (ANI)

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