Home STEM Tensegrity


by Olivia Xu

Science is a wondrous thing that defines many of the phenomena we encounter in the world. One of my favorite results of science is tensegrity. Tensegrity is short for tensile integrity. It is a system of contiguous components under tension and noncontiguous components under compression

Tensegrity is often used in design and to help support extremely heavy things. One example of tensegrity in the real world is the Kurilpa Bridge in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The cables are in tension while the tubes are in compression. The way the components are arranged provides the extra strength and resilience required to support the thousands of people who travel over it every day.

Another famous example of tensegrity is the floating table. The middle chain prevents the upper wooden piece from falling which in turn keeps the other two chains tense. This system makes the floating table extremely stable. If you were to attempt to move a piece, it would just go back to its original position. This structure also allows for a lot of stress to be put on the table without having to worry about it collapsing.

But, not only has tensegrity been applied in architecture, tensegrity is also used by nature. Biotensegrity is the application of tensegrity principles to biological structures. Our bodies use tensegrity a lot. Bones don’t actually touch each other, instead, they float in a tension structure created by our fascial network. Tom Flemons’s tensegrity spine model showed how the vertebrae floated apart from each other. This also explains many spinal dysfunctions like swollen disks that come from injured or unused tension networks.

In conclusion, tensegrity is a fascinating result of physics and the balancing of forces. It allows for beautiful, seemingly impossible structures to be created. Not only is tensegrity utilized in architecture, it is also used by nature in many things like the skeletal system.

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1 comment

Anonymous Nyan Cat May 6, 2022 - 6:04 pm

The floating table thing sounds really cool :O


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