Assistant Professor, Michelle Rosen, Co-Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

POSTED ON: September 7, 2021

Michelle Rosen

Right image credit: Second Bay Studios and Roy Caldwell/Harvard SEAS

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Michelle Rosen, contributed as part of an interdisciplinary research team to a paper titled "A physical model of mantis shrimp for exploring the dynamics of ultrafast system," published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers built a robot to model the mechanics of the mantis shrimp, a creature whose club-like appendages pack the strongest punch in the animal kingdom. Dr. Rosen, who specializes in biomimicry, worked on the mechanical design of the robot. 

You can read more about the research and watch a video of the robot here.

Efficient and effective generation of high-acceleration movement in biology requires a process to control energy flow and amplify mechanical power from power density–limited muscle. Until recently, this ability was exclusive to ultrafast, small organisms, and this process was largely ascribed to the high mechanical power density of small elastic recoil mechanisms. In several ultrafast organisms, linkages suddenly initiate rotation when they ove rcenter and reverse torque; this process mediates the release of stored elastic energy and enhances the mechanical power output of extremely fast, spring-actuated systems. Here we report the discovery of linkage dynamics and geometric latching that reveals how organisms and synthetic systems generate extremely high-acceleration, short-duration movements. Through synergistic analyses of mantis shrimp strikes, a synthetic mantis shrimp robot, and a dynamic mathematical model, we discover that linkages can exhibit distinct dynamic phases that control energy transfer from stored elastic energy to ultrafast movement. These design principles are embodied in a 1.5-g mantis shrimp scale mechanism capable of striking velocities over 26 m s−1s−1 in air and 5 m s−1s−1 in water. The physical, mathematical, and biological datasets establish latching mechanics with four temporal phases and identify a nondimensional performance metric to analyze potential energy transfer. These temporal phases enable control of an extreme cascade of mechanical power amplification. Linkage dynamics and temporal phase characteristics are easily adjusted through linkage design in robotic and mathematical systems and provide a framework to understand the function of linkages and latches in biological systems.

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