Biomimicry: Learning From Beetles Inspires New Technology
Don't put a bombardier beetle in your mouth, or like Charles Darwin, you may find out the hard way how they got the name 'bombardier'. The bombardier beetle can rapidly spray a noxious 100°C (212°F) liquid when it is peeved. Not only can it conjure a boiling liquid on demand but the spray mechanism is no small engineering feat, using a chamber less than one millimeter long the beetle can control the direction, consistency, and rapidity of their defensive spray.
Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory at the University of Leeds was certainly impressed:
"Nobody had studied the beetle from a physics and engineering perspective as we did – and we didn't appreciate how much we would learn from it."
Learn they did. Their new technology has incredible application possibilities ranging from more efficient fuel injection to better drug delivery systems.The research team developed a 2 cm (<1 inch) chamber inspired by the beetle that can propel fluids 4 meters (~13 feet). The same chamber design can also produce a 'soft mist' with droplets as small as 2 microns.
Named µMist™, the technology allows the user to select the droplet size, temperature, and velocity of a liquid. This kind of control enables an entirely new way of thinking about mist systems. Swedish Biomimetics 3000® Ltd has signed a worldwide exclusive licensing agreement for the development and commercialization of the µMist™ technology.
µMist™ is a good example of what can come from taking a closer look at our natural world. There are at least 500 different species of bombardier beetles, and they don't all use the same mechanism. What other innovations are waiting to be found? When we stop and look at the natural world, we might just be amazed at what we find. Imagine what we can learn from the other 30 million species.