Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Puget Sound's clingfish could inspire better medical devices, whale tags

05.05.2015

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.


A Northern clingfish is shown in its natural environment.

Credit: Petra Ditsche, U of Washington

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 pditsche@uw.edu or 360-610-0860.

Media Contact

Michelle Ma
mcma@uw.edu
206-543-2580

 @HSNewsBeat

http://www.uwnews.org 

Michelle Ma | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

nachricht Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>