Natural structures can give rise to stronger, lighter systems

Published: 26 July 2023

In a recent multidisciplinary study published in Advanced Science, researchers build upon the principles of biomimicry by drawing inspiration from the wing of a dragonfly to redesign that of a Boeing 777.

Over millions of years, dragonfly wings have evolved to be incredibly lightweight, efficient, and strong. The authors of the study, including Associate Professor Abdolhamid Akbarzadeh Shafaroudi in McGill's Department of Bioresource Engineering, analyzed the intricacies of the dragonfly wing to decode the structure's physics, then used machine learning to design airplane wings that followed the same principles.

The team members applied their finding to real-world scenarios by incorporating dragonfly-inspired designs into a 2D extruded airframe of a Boeing 777 wing at a 1:120 scale. The results showed an astonishing improvement in the structural efficiency of the wings, suggesting the potential for lighter and more efficient airplane wing designs using fewer materials, which could save fuel and costs while reducing aviation’s environmental footprint.

“This study shines a spotlight on the untapped potential of nature-inspired design,” said study co-author Masoud Akbarzadeh of the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. “Through the synergistic fusion of machine learning, structural biology, and engineering, a new frontier is emerging, one that promises a wave of innovation across various engineering disciplines.”

“As we continue to peer into the intricate structures of the natural world for inspiration, who knows what other secrets we might unlock? From dragonflies to other winged animals, our journey of discovery is just beginning.”

Read the full article from Penn Today.

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