Rapid Recoil In Elastic Systems

Flexible and elastic structures often have two different states that they will happily exist in. A rubber hemisphere will pop into its reverse when forced to do so, but a more commonly seen example is that of an umbrella. The change between a perfectly functioning to a inside out umbrella happens in one very quick motion. There is no gradual slipping that usually occurs with elastic materials. It is through this method that a Venus flytrap is able to produce its rapid capture of an insect. Many other animals and plants that rely on sudden rapid motion are able to produce it this way but the strange thing is despite how fast these beings move theory says they should be faster.

In order to explain this discrepancy scientists have made detailed calculations about the dynamic nature of the sudden snapping motion. It certainly appears that close to the transition point where the material would settle into its new form the speed slows down. it is generally accepted that the transition speed is a function of the materials thickness, explaining Venus flytrap’s thin, disk like shapes. Since explosive speed is the primary benefit of these bi-equilibrium systems understanding what the limiting factor is and how to improve it will allow these materials to be integrated into more and more technology.


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