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Seeing inside insects to mimic their movements and build better machines


Seeing inside insects to mimic their movements and build better machines

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Better understanding how insects move in space and time could provide useful clues for industrial innovation.

That is according to scientists at the Institute of Technology in the German city of Karlsruhe, who have developed a process using 3D X-ray films showing the internal movement dynamics of insects in a spatially precise manner as well as in time.

They did this by putting together high resolution X-ray pictures at a speed of 100,000 radiographs per second.

“What we’ve developed is a kind of 3D X-ray cinema which you’ve got to imagine like a sort of X-ray film. What we do is we take a great many pictures in a very short period of time and what we get is a sequence that looks just like a real film,” explained Thomas Van de Kamp, a biologist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

The scientists applied this technique to a living beetle and were able to look inside the insect without touching it.

They say this is not possible with conventional computer tomography which is not efficient enough to reproduce the movements in a spatially precise manner. By using this technology, scientists are able to view the experiment subjects from a new angle.

“There are more than a million different types of insects that we know of, but we have no idea how their internal movement dynamics work. This technology allows us to look at the movements and see, for example, how the movement of their joints can applied on a technical level,” said KIT’s Van de Kamp.

In homage to the first moving images developed in the late 19th century, the scientists have dubbed their process “cinetomography”. It is hoped this new kind of cinematography will soon be applicable to mechanical processes that will help advance industrial innovation.

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