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What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

Posted February 09, 2011 8:30 AM by Steve Melito

Woodpeckers bang their beaks into trees as many as 22 times per second. The bones of these birds may be spongy, but hunting for insects is hard work. With each bite into bark, a woodpecker subjects its brain to deceleration forces of 1200 g. That's 100 times the g-force that would give an NFL player a game-ending concussion. Woody Woodpecker may not be able to pass like Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rogers, but he could take a hit.

So how do woodpeckers withstand such powerful deceleration forces? That's what two researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, Sang-Hee Yoon and Sungmin Park, wanted to find out. Woodpeckers have spongy skulls and hard but elastic beaks. Yet their bone structure provides little room for the vibration-dampening fluid between their skulls and brains. Fortunately, a special structure called the hyloid layer helps.

Based upon their research, Yoon and Park designed a four-part shock absorber that embeds glass beads in a steel-encased aluminum cylinder. A rubber layer simulates a woodpecker's hyloid while an aluminum shell serves as the thin layer of fluid between a bird's skull and brain. To simulate the skull's sponginess, glass beads measuring 1-mm in diameter were selected and then closely packed. An electronic device that the researchers embedded in the beads proves that the shock absorber can enable contents to survive up to 60,000 g.

In addition to protecting electronic devices, this new shock absorber could be used to improve the helmets that military personnel, race cars drivers, and football players wear. What are some other potential applications for this technology?

Source: Pop Sci

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#1

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/09/2011 12:08 PM

One potential application may be the old 'Egg Drop' demonstration/experiment.

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#2

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/09/2011 10:42 PM

You might have to re-design the inside of their skulls.

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#3

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/10/2011 8:04 AM

As an avid motorcyclist, I can see immediate applications in the design of helmets and protective gear..especially if the technology can be developed such that the energy dissipation can be accomplished via garments that are conformable to the wearer.

Another application would be in protective garments...especially footwear...for use in forges, foundries, and other industrial environments where protection of the toes and metatarsals is important.

In sports...besides the obvious applications for football helments, one could see similar benefits for hockey gear, including skates, shin guards, and helmets. Batters helmets in baseball and cricket, as well. Bicyclists helmets, as well.

So much of this is / will be dependent upon the weight of the protective devices as compared with their current competitve alternatives.

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#4

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/10/2011 8:39 AM

Auto bumper

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#5

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/10/2011 10:39 AM

I've been banging my head against the wall of buraucracy for years. When are they coming to study me?

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#6
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Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/10/2011 11:27 AM

the woodpecker accomplishes something he gets the grub out and a meal.

When you accomplish something with bureaucracy they will come running to see how you did it.

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#7

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/10/2011 1:05 PM

Revolutionize vehicle suspension.

Instead of making roads smoother, make vehicle shock absorbers better.

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#8

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/10/2011 4:59 PM

I'll have the sneakers, please! And how about my snow shovel ice breaker handle?

Footwear would be great for parachutists too.

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#9

Re: What Can Woodpeckers Teach Us About Shock Absorbers?

02/26/2011 6:01 AM

Oh, for a moment i thought this thread was about woodpeckers ! Would have been interesting to see what advantage humans can derive from them.

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