The Secret to Insect Success: The Cuticle

The natural material that covers the entire outer body of this grasshopper and many other insects is cuticle. (Credit: Dr Jan-Henning Dirks)

Insects have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and are found in large numbers even in the harshest climates around the world.

So, what is the secret to their success? Well, one major factor is undoubtedly the cuticle, which covers the outer body of insects, such as the grasshopper pictured here on the right.

Despite the abundance of cuticle – it is the second most common natural material on the planet – no-one had studied its engineering properties in detail.

Until now that is.

Dr Jan-Henning Dirks and Professor David Taylor at the TCD Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering have shown that cuticle is flexible, lightweight, very strong, and crack resistant.

These are properties of interest to many industries, such as airplane manufacturers, for example.

LISTEN: Interview with Jan-Henning Dirks

This interview was broadcast on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM on 17-04-2012

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