The bombardier beetle’s unique natural combustion technique is being studied to see if it can be copied for use in the aircraft industry.
The bombardier beetle in action
Credit: Thomas Eisner and Daniel Aneshansley, Cornell University
Scientists studying the bombardier beetle’s jet-based defence mechanism hope it will help to solve a problem that can occasionally occur at high altitude – re-igniting a gas turbine aircraft engine which has cut out, when the outside air temperature is as low as minus 50 degrees Centigrade!
Due to start early next year, this innovative 3-year project at the University of Leeds is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The bombardier beetle defends itself by squirting predators (ants, frogs, spiders) with a high-pressure jet of boiling liquid in a rapid-fire action called pulse combustion. Building on work by Professor Tom Eisner at Cornell University, the new project will set out to improve understanding of the beetle’s unique pulse combustion and nozzle ejection mechanism. It also aims to identify how combustion engineers could exploit this understanding to practical effect. For example, knowledge gained could aid the development of a device that helps relight aircraft engines at high altitude by squirting plasma into the engine’s combustion chamber more accurately.
The project will involve computer-based numerical and mathematical modelling. Initially it will focus on understanding the beetle’s heart-shaped miniature combustion chamber, which is less than 1 millimetre long. Simulations for a larger chamber around a few centimetres long will then be conducted, in which gases are ignited by raising the chamber’s surface temperature. The effect of different shaped nozzle outlets and explosion chambers will also be examined.
The project team will be led by Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory at the Energy and Resources Research Institute in the University of Leeds. Professor McIntosh says: “The bombardier beetle’s defence mechanism represents a very effective natural form of combustion. Copying such natural mechanisms is part of the growing field of biomimetics where scientists learn much from intricate design features already in nature. Understanding this beetle better could lead to significant advances in combustion research.”
Jane Reck | EPSRC
New manufacturing process for SiC power devices opens market to more competition
14.09.2017 | North Carolina State University
Quick, Precise, but not Cold
17.05.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy