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Butterfly Proboscis to Sip Cells

A butterfly’s proboscis looks like a straw -- long, slender, and used for sipping -- but it works more like a paper towel, according to Konstantin Kornev of Clemson University. He hopes to borrow the tricks of this piece of insect anatomy to make small probes that can sample the fluid inside of cells.

Kornev will present his work next week at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics will take place from November 22-24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

At the scales at which a butterfly or moth lives, liquid is so thick that it is able to form fibers. The insects' liquid food -- drops of water, animal tears, and the juice inside decomposed fruit -- spans nearly three orders of magnitude in viscosity. Pumping liquid through its feeding tube would require an enormous amount of pressure.

“No pump would support that kind of pressure,” says Kornev. “The liquid would boil spontaneously.”

Instead of pumping, Kornev’s findings suggest that butterflies draw liquid upwards using capillary action -- the same force that pulls liquid across a paper towel. The proboscis resembles a rolled-up paper towel, with tiny grooves that pull the liquid upwards along the edges, carrying along the bead of liquid in the middle of the tube. This process is not nearly as affected by viscosity as pumping.

Kornev has been recently awarded an NSF grant to develop artificial probes made of nanofibers that use a similar principal to draw out the viscous liquid inside of cells and examine their contents.

The presentation, "Butterfly proboscis as a biomicrofluidic system" by Konstantin Kornev et al of Clemson University is at 12:01 p.m. on Sunday, November 22, 2009.


The 62nd Annual DFD Meeting will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. All meeting information, including directions to the Convention Center is at:
Credentialed full-time journalist and professional freelance journalists working on assignment for major publications or media outlets are invited to attend the conference free of charge. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, please contact Jason Bardi (, 301-209-3091).
Main meeting Web site:
Searchable form:
Local Conference Meeting Website:
PDF of Meeting Abstracts:
Division of Fluid Dynamics page:
Virtual Press Room: SEE BELOW
The APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room will contain tips on dozens of stories as well as stunning graphics and lay-language papers detailing some of the most interesting results at the meeting. Lay-language papers are roughly 500 word summaries written for a general audience by the authors of individual presentations with accompanying graphics and multimedia files. The Virtual Press Room will serve as starting points for journalists who are interested in covering the meeting but cannot attend in person. See:

Currently, the Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room contains information related to the 2008 meeting. In mid-November, the Virtual Press Room will be updated for this year's meeting, and another news release will be sent out at that time.

A reserved workspace with wireless internet connections will be available for use by reporters. It will be located in the meeting exhibition hall (Ballroom AB) at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday and Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Press announcements and other news will be available in the Virtual Press Room.
Every year, the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics hosts posters and videos that show stunning images and graphics from either computational or experimental studies of flow phenomena. The outstanding entries, selected by a panel of referees for artistic content, originality and ability to convey information, will be honored during the meeting, placed on display at the Annual APS Meeting in March of 2010, and will appear in the annual Gallery of Fluid Motion article in the September 2010 issue of the journal Physics of Fluids.

This year, selected entries from the 27th Annual Gallery of Fluid Motion will be hosted as part of the Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room. In mid-November, when the Virtual Press Room is launched, another announcement will be sent out.

The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure.

Jason Socrates Bardi | Newswise Science News
Further information:

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