Mechanical engineers Ken Kiger and Elias Balaras, of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and entomologist Jeffrey Shultz, College of Chemical and Life Sciences, have identified a biological mechanism in the young mayflies that could enable sensors in stagnant environments to make air or water flow past them so they can detect harmful substances.
Young aquatic mayflies, or “nymphs,” enhance their respiration using gills, creating a flow of fresh water with the help of seven pairs of nearby gill plates that flap like a Venetian blind. The flow of fresh water is generated by the plate’s motion, directing water to the mayfly’s gills as efficiently as possible.
"By duplicating the action of the mayfly gill plates in a tiny robotic device, we hope to create a flow of air or water to sensors in stagnant environments, so they can operate more effectively," Kiger said.
They also are taking a closer look into something that scientists have known for a long time: at a sufficiently small size, an object is less affected by inertia than it is by the thickness (viscosity) of the water it is travelling through.
For example, consider a canoe in comparison to a mayfly. As it travels through the water, the canoe produces a current, which will continue to ripple through the water for some time after the canoe moves on. This is an effect of the water's inertia.
The opposite is true for the tiny mayfly nymph, which is so small that the thickness (viscosity) of the water stops such a current almost as soon as the gill plates stop. Once the mayfly grows to a certain size though, it is capable of creating an inertial effect, or ripples, of its own. Its gills respond accordingly, which is a trait the researchers hope to replicate in their sensors.
"Mayfly sizes are right at the point where issues of viscosity and inertia switch in importance," Kiger said. "Depending on whether the weight or the thickness of the water is influencing its movement, the mayfly switches the way it pumps water to its gills."
The current trend in sensor technology is to strive for smaller and more compact devices to enhance their portability and reduce power consumption. As a result of this trend, traditional technology sensors will run into the same difficulty as experienced by the mayfly as the sensors reach smaller and smaller sizes: eventually a transition will occur where inertial flow mechanisms will become ineffective.
Studying how the mayfly deals with this transition can give us insight into how to better develop equivalent engineered sensors. The next step will be to construct a tiny artificial micro-robot that can reproduce the switchable gill action of the mayfly nymph. Such a mechanism could be installed in sensors intended to detect unhealthy air in otherwise stagnant areas, such as in subway stations or mines.
If a miniature set of robotic mayfly gill plates can move air over a sensor, potentially harmful substances can be detected faster – and no canaries would be harmed in the process. This work is been supported by the National Science Foundation. Entomology graduate student Andrew Sensenig also contributed to this research.
Missy Corley | newswise
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
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
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences