All tensegrity structures have stored energy; the energy is in the form of stored mechanical energy. Other terms used to describe this energy are “spring energy” or prestress. This little-known feature is essential to the function of tensegrity structures. These articles will give clear examples of that spring energy and why stored energy important to understand the behavior of these structures.
The bicycle wheel with spokes, invented around 150 years ago, is a tensegrity structure. Buckminster Fuller noted the “evolution” from thick wooden spokes to thin metal spokes; Amy Edmondson comments on that in A Fuller Explanation:
The wheel’s use of tension enables a far more efficient and lightweight structure than could be produced with compression spokes. Tension materials are inherently smaller and lighter than compression materials carrying equivalent loads.The wheel was originally an exclusively compression structure starting with the cave man’s stone cylinder and progressing to slightly more sophisticated designs like “the old artillery wheel” cited by Fuller in Synergetics.