AMHERST, Mass.—The snap of a Venus fly trap, the packed punch of a mantis shrimp's dactyl clubs or the leap of a trap-jaw ant are just a few examples of many "lightning quick" responses found in nature.
"A mantis shrimp can accelerate its hammer underwater at 40,000 meters per second squared or faster," said Alfred Crosby, professor of polymer science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. "(It) can shatter clam shells and crab shells in all kinds of impressive motions."
A trap-jaw ant, he said, can launch itself about a meter into the air using the force of closing its jaws at a rate of about 500,000 meters per second squared.
These releases of stored energy are what a team of scientists at UMass are calling latch mediated spring actuation, or LAMSA. And they're what inspired a group of engineers at the university to develop a new rubber-like "metamaterial" that can absorb and release large quantities of energy.
UMass is part of a multi-university team, called a MURI (multidisciplinary university research initiative), Crosby said, noting the university has been part of its current team for the past seven years.
Along with UMass, the MURI includes Duke University; Carnegie Mellon University; the University of California, Irvine; and Harvard University. It's led by Sheila Patek, the Hehmeyer professor of biology at Duke.
The team combines biology with material science and robotics, Crosby said, adding that its focus is "on trying to understand how some of the fastest moving organisms create the power that they can generate repeatably."
The research is supported by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Research Office and the Harbin Institute of Technology of Shenzhen, China (HITSZ).