Despite a lack of consciousness, insects never cease to surprise me with regard to their nearly unfaltering programming. Insects are truly hardy insects that continue to evolve to withstand constant environmental changes. Their actions appear to have true purpose. The pattern and color on a butterfly's wing, the birth of an ant into a worker or a queen - each action is driven by a biological knowledge of what is best for the species.
As researchers grow to understand more about insect behavior, innovators are inspired by insects' efficiency. A simple Google search of "insect-inspired design" brings up a wealth of articles. Fashion designers are inspired by a tropical beetle's colors and an architect uses the structure of a dragonfly's wing to design a green building for a city landscape. However, I was drawn to a particular design by Resilient Technology, a Wisconsin-based polymer engineering company. In 2008, they designed an air-less wheel for Humvees, inspired by the structure and strength of a honeybee's hive.
Opening a beehive will reveal a beautiful display of hexagonal honeycomb. These wax structures are home to developing larvae and store pounds of honey and pollen for food. The use of hexagons, although often overlooked, should be recognized as having great purpose. Hexagons in this array are able to withstand great amounts of pressure without compacting. The strength of this design makes it desirable for other purposes.
These Humvee tires, while still in development, will be able to maintain the great weight of the Humvee while eliminating the need for air in the tires. Air-less tires, as the developers suggest, will create safer conditions for drivers and passengers in the vehicle. Traditional tires run the risk of blowouts which could leave service men and women in a dangerous situation, but a honeycomb design will enable the vehicle to continue to move regardless of circumstances. In fact, testing has indicated that even after the destruction of large portion of the comb (about 30%) the tire can still function normally.
It is encouraging to see insects receiving the recognition they deserve for innovative and constructive behavior. Insects continue to inspire the work of artists, engineers and architects in ways that are streamlined and beneficial to all.
For more info: http://www.resilienttech.com/images/pdfs/Resilient-Tech-Airless-Tire_Diesel-Progress.pdf