An Insect Inspiring Technological Advancement

An Insect Inspiring Technological Advancement

Would you squash the bug that could speed up your iPhone?  While meeting with some contractors at the city hall, I noticed a black insect on the interior wall.  If possible, I move insects to their natural habitat who have encroached my space.  Using my made in Detroit Shinola notebook, I corralled the specimen for released outside.  Not knowing the insect-type, I inquired from my entomologist friend, Holly its type; a weevil or more specifically a Otiorhynchus sulcatus (black vine weevil).  To the green thumbs, the weevil is a pest but to silicon valley, the weevil may inspire faster electronic gadgets.  

Insects and crustaceans use structural color to camouflage from predators and attract mates.  Structural color uses crystalline structures to reflect and refract light like a prism.  Chitin, a crystalline, sugar-based polymer, builds the hard and colorful exoskeleton of these organisms.  The pattern and layers of these crystals could be cubic-, diamond- or gyroid-shaped redirecting incoming light into iridescent colors of the rainbow.  The iridescent green Brazilian weevills, Entimus imperialis (diamond weevil) and Lamprocyphus Augustus have unique diamond-shaped crystalline structures under investigation to inspire sustainable human-applied ways of transmitting photons. 

Photo credit: http://www.living-jewels.com/lamprocyphus_augustus.htm

Photo credit: http://www.living-jewels.com/lamprocyphus_augustus.htm

So why would computer industry care about the exoskeleton of insects?  Currently, computer chips use an ionic crystalline structure to transmit electrons in order to create the computing power.  In other industries, copper wires, which also transmit electrons, have been replaced by fiber optics, which transmit photons.  Photons are essentially light, and transmitting light results infaster processing speeds.  Thus, the weevil’s diamond crystalline structures could inspire ways to build photon transmitting computer chips.  In addition, it can provide ideas for three dimensional information transmission versus the current, slower two dimensional information transmission; more directions means faster speeds.

So before you grab a shoe to smash that insect in your house, reflect on how the light reflects and refracts off the organism’s body. How could these pests actually inspire humans to live more sustainably and efficiently?

  1. http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/black-vine-weevil

  2. Wilts, Bodo D BD (2012). "Hemispherical Brillouin zone imaging of a diamond-type biological photonic crystal.". Journal of the Royal Society interface (1742-5689), 9 (72), p. 1609. http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/9/72/1609