Scooting around in the shallow, coastal waters of Puget Sound is one of the world's best suction cups.
It's called the Northern clingfish, and its small, finger-sized body uses suction forces to hold up to 150 times its own body weight. These fish actually hold on better to rough surfaces than to smooth ones, putting to shame industrial suction devices that give way with the slightest uneven surface.
Researchers at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island are studying this quirky little fish to understand how it can summon such massive suction power in wet, slimy environments. They are beginning to look at how the biomechanics of clingfish could be helpful in designing devices and instruments to be used in surgery and even to tag and track whales in the ocean.
"Northern clingfish's attachment abilities are very desirable for technical applications, and this fish can provide an excellent model for strongly and reversibly attaching to rough, fouled surfaces in wet environments," said Petra Ditsche, a postdoctoral researcher with Adam Summers' team at Friday Harbor Labs.
Ditsche presented her research on the sticky benefits of clingfish last month in Nashville at the Adhesive and Sealant Council's spring convention in a talk, "Bio-inspired suction attachment from the sea."
Clingfish have a disc on their bellies that is key to how they can hold on with such tenacity. The rim of the disc is covered with layers of micro-sized, hairlike structures. This layered effect allows the fish to stick to surfaces with different amounts of roughness.
"Moreover, the whole disc is elastic and that enables it to adapt to a certain degree on the coarser sites," Ditsche added.
Many marine animals can stick strongly to underwater surfaces - sea stars, mussels and anemones, to name a few - but few can release as fast as the clingfish, particularly after generating so much sticking power.
On land, lizards, beetles, spiders and ants also employ attachment forces to be able to move up walls and along the ceiling, despite the force of gravity. But unlike animals that live in the water, they don't have to deal with changing currents and other flow dynamics that make it harder to grab on and maintain a tight grip. (Read a recent paper by Ditsche and Summers on the differences between adhesion in water and on land.)
Clingfish's unique ability to hold with great force on wet, often slimy surfaces makes them particularly intriguing to study for biomedical applications. Imagine a bio-inspired device that could stick to organs or tissues without harming the patient.
"The ability to retract delicate tissues without clamping them is desirable in the field of laparoscopic surgery," Summers said. "A clingfish-based suction cup could lead to a new way to manipulate organs in the gut cavity without risking puncture."
Researchers are also interested in developing a tagging tool for whales that would allow a tag to noninvasively stick to the animal's body instead of puncturing the skin with a dart, which is often used for longer-term tagging.
Ditsche, Summers and the UW graduate and undergraduate students who are studying the Northern clingfish have no shortage of specimens to choose from. This species is found in the coastal waters near Mexico all the way up to Southern Alaska. They often cling to the rocks near the shore, and at low tide the researchers can poke around in tide pools and turn over rocks to collect the fish. If they can unstick them, that is.
There are about 110 known species in the clingfish family found all over the world. The population around the San Juan Islands is robust and healthy.
Now that they have measured the strength of the suction on different surfaces, the researchers plan to look next at how long clingfish can stick to a surface. They also want to understand why bigger clingfish can stick better than smaller ones, and what implications that could have on developing materials based on their properties.
This research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Seaver Foundation.
For more information, contact Ditsche at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-610-0860.
Michelle Ma | EurekAlert!
What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society
Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy