13.04.2018 change 13.04.2018

Biologist: Insects have a huge importance for the development of technology

Photo: PAP / Leszek Szymański Photo: PAP / Leszek Szymański

Insects have a huge importance for the development of technology. Watching insect helped develop technologies in the areas including military, construction, mining, jewellery, robotics, computer science and even astronautics, says Dr. Radomir Jaskuła, zoologist at the University of Lodz.

The biologist from the Department of Zoology of Invertebrates and Hydrobiology of the University of Lodz reminds that we now know over 1 million species of insects. They have a lot of interesting adaptations that can be used in technological development.

Reaching to history, he reminds of the production of candles from beeswax for hundreds of years. "Times have obviously changed, people have learned to observe insects more accurately and use their +inventions+ much more efficiently" - he emphasises. As a result, we have such products as new cosmetic sprays or spray paints. Their mechanism is borrowed from predatory beetles of the genus Brachinus - called bombardier beetles, which defend themselves against predators by spraying chemical weapons from the tip of their abdomen.

Among other interesting inventions, the expert mentions wildly popular smartphones. According to Jaskuła, in the case of the most energy-saving devices of this type, the energy saving technology comes from the observation of South American morpho butterflies.

"These beautiful blue butterflies have the ability to +accumulate+ solar energy in a specific way. Today Japanese constructors are using this mechanism to build smartphones that save up to 90% more energy compared to previous models" - explains Dr. Jaskuła.

This new technology is also beneficial for the eyes of users - these phones emit much less light, so they are less tiring for the eyes.

In desert regions, where water scarcity is a problem, observations of insects have allowed to learn to recover it from the morning fog. "As a result of observations of darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae), today we are able to recover water from the fog, which rises after the night. Rising warm air that usually contains large amounts of moisture, settles on various objects. We owe the ability to benefit from this phenomenon to insects" - he adds.

But not only terrestrial insects affect the development of technology. The biologist mentions caddisflies of the genus Hydropsyche - freshwater insects, which can be found also in Poland.

These insects produce threads they use to spin nets for larvae to collect food in flowing waters. "The strength of this net is much greater than the strength of a Kevlar thread with a similar diameter. Kevlar is commonly used by the army and the police in bulletproof vests and helmets" - he says.

The scientist expects that these small insects and their nets will soon be of great importance in the production of this type of equipment, as well as other solutions, for example strong ropes used in mountain climbing.

"We have only been learning to observe insects for a few decades. Is very likely that each year will bring new discoveries that can be translated into further inventions that make life easier for people in different parts of the world" - concludes Dr. Radomir Jaskuła.

PAP - Nauka w Polsce, Kamil Szubański

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