Butterfly proboscis to sip cells

November 22, 2009

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 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 . 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 that use a similar principal to draw out the viscous inside of cells and examine their contents.

More information: 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. Abstract: meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD09/Event/110814

Source: American Institute of Physics

Explore further: New type of liquid crystal identified; Holds promise of faster, lower priced liquid crystal displays

Related Stories

Researchers to mimic nature's probes

August 31, 2009

The National Science Foundation has awarded Clemson University researchers $2 million to study ways to mimic the suction mechanism used by butterflies and moths to feed so that the same method can be used in medical diagnostics. ...

Generating electricity from air flow

November 22, 2009

A group of researchers at the City College of New York is developing a new way to generate power for planes and automobiles based on materials known as piezoelectrics, which convert the kinetic energy of motion into electricity. ...

Robotic clam digs in mudflats

November 22, 2009

To design a lightweight anchor that can dig itself in to hold small underwater submersibles, Anette (Peko) Hosoi of MIT borrowed techniques from one of nature's best diggers -- the razor clam.

Recommended for you

Short wavelength plasmons observed in nanotubes

July 28, 2015

The term "plasmons" might sound like something from the soon-to-be-released new Star Wars movie, but the effects of plasmons have been known about for centuries. Plasmons are collective oscillations of conduction electrons ...

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

Lobster-Eye imager detects soft X-ray emissions

July 28, 2015

Solar winds are known for powering dangerous space weather events near Earth, which, in turn, endangers space assets. So a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, led by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.