MAE Seminar Series

Power Limits in Small, Fast Biological and Engineered Systems

Ryan St. Pierre.

Dr. Ryan St. Pierre

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University at Buffalo

February 16, 2023 | 3:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. | 337 Bell Hall


Some of the most power dense movements are found in small biological systems, from the stinging cells of jellyfish, strikes of trap-jaw ants, and snaps of shrimp. These movements all come under the framework of latch-mediated spring actuation (LaMSA) systems. These LaMSA systems store potential energy in a spring, the spring is then released with a latch, and an incredibly power dense behavior is initiated. Engineered systems, in comparison, pale in comparison to these biological systems. But what is limiting the power performance of engineered systems? And moreover, what would limit the power performance in a biological systems? How the power is limited in both biological and engineered systems leads to the driving questions (1) what are the trade-offs in design and control, and (2) how do we engineer these principles in small-scale devices?

To begin to answer these questions, biological systems will be dissected to understand how energy is stored and released at ultra-fast speeds. Through this, limitations will be identified for the various components that contribute to these power dense movements. These limitations will form a framework for navigating the trade-offs in design and control as we look toward making similarly power dense engineered systems. 


Ryan St. Pierre is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo working at the intersection of microrobotics, microsystems, and biological systems. Prior to joining UB, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Carnegie Mellon University. He received his PhD in 2018 from the University of Maryland, and MS and BS degrees in 2013 from Northeastern University. His research interests focus on bringing microrobots toward autonomy through understanding both highly dynamic biological systems and resource-constrained robotics. His work in microrobotics has been recognized with the Best Paper award at the 2018 Solid-State Sensors, Actuators, and Microsystems Workshop and Ryan has been highlighted on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Science list.

Event Date: February 16, 2023