How and Why are Cells in Insect Wings Organized? (BioE80 Spr2015)

I’ve always been interested in patterns in biology. One pattern that fascinates me is the shape and arrangement of cells in insect wings. I collected different bugs and put their wings into the Foldoscope. This was the first time I got to see the pattern up close:

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The cells seem to range from small to large in size and fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces. The compactness and varying size seem to provide structure and support for the wings.

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I think the organization of the cells is a classic case of “form fits function.” The compactness in tandem with the varying size of the cells provides these seemingly delicate wings the strength needed to fly, even in windy conditions.

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Since the organization of the cells provides strength and structure for insect wings, I think engineers could use the same organization to create strong and efficiently compacted materials. I did some research online and discovered that this pattern is very similar to Voronoi Tessellations in mathematics.

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Voronoi Tessellations (cs.wustl.edu)
http://www.asknature.org/images/uploads/strategy/51b1ad882ccc3fce497b5ac6d493ef41/b5468f683d734d80634ff098f18c82f1.jpg
Dragonfly Wing (AskNature.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a result, engineers could apply Voronoi Tessellations to accurately model the structure of insect wings. Using this modeling toolkit, engineers could then create materials that are just as strong and efficiently compacted as insect wings.

I would love to research not only Voronoi Tessellations in more depth but also the process by which engineers could apply this topic from mathematics.

By Jonathan Tynan

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