Lyfish-inspired pumps: Researchers investigate next generation medical and robotic devices

Nov 23, 2010

To the causal aquarium visitor, the jellyfish doesn't seem to be a particularly powerful swimmer; compared to a fish, it glides slowly and peacefully.

But for Janna Nawroth, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the undulations of this simple invertebrate hold secrets that may make possible a new generation of tiny pumps for medical applications and soft robotics -- work she describes today at the American Physical Society Division of (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

"Most pumps are made of rigid materials," says Nawroth. "For medical pumps inside the human body, we need flexible pumps because they move fluids in a much gentler way that does not destroy tissues and cells."

Nawroth is working with Caltech engineer John Dabiri, an expert on jellyfish propulsion. His research has shown these cnidarians tend to fall into two categories -- those that produce faster, harder strokes and those that create weaker but more efficient strokes. He has also studied the flows and eddies created by the strokes, which can be characterized by a dimensionless quantity called a Reynolds number.

"We're really lucky," says Nawroth. "The Reynolds numbers we see in the movement of jellyfish of different sizes and ages are in the right range as what we need for medical applications."

As a step towards creating flexible pumps, Nawroth is studying how jellyfish shape and tissue composition adapt to the demands imposed by flow conditions at different Reynolds numbers. Jellyfish at millimeter scales, for example, exploit the small layer of water that adheres to their surface as they move and use it as additional paddle at no extra cost. Further, a clever arrangement of multiple within the body allow for a reliable yet tunable pumping mechanism.

In the future, Nawroth plans to use this practical understanding to help design a whole spectrum of flexible pumps that are optimized for different tasks and conditions.

Explore further: Detailed experiments reveal the operational parameters for a promising thermo-magnetic data-storage technology

More information: The presentation, "Learning from jellyfish: Fluid transport in muscular pumps at intermediate Reynolds numbers" is on Tuesday, November 23, 2010
. Abstract: meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD10/Event/134388

Related Stories

Dutch zoo breeds own jellyfish

Sep 29, 2007

Marine biologists at a Dutch zoo say they have succeeded in the difficult task of breeding jellyfish in captivity.

Jellyfish is anatomically sophisticated

Jun 21, 2005

A U.S. study says the anus-less, headless, heartless, gutless, back or front-less jellyfish is really a remarkable genetically sophisticated creature.

Voracious comb jellyfish 'invisible' to prey

Oct 12, 2010

Despite its primitive structure, the North American comb jellyfish can sneak up on its prey like a high-tech stealth submarine, making it a successful predator. Researchers, including one from the University ...

Making use of jellyfish on dry land

Nov 08, 2010

John Dabiri, assistant professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at Caltech who won a MacArthur Award this year, is fascinated by jellyfish. He believes jellyfish propulsion can inform engineering, which in turn can inform ...

Jellyfish: Far from Passive Drifters-in-the-Currents

May 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you were to snorkel just before dawn at the popular tropical Pacific destination Jellyfish Lake, you'd have lots of company: millions of golden jellyfish, known to scientists as Mastigias ...

Recommended for you

CERN researchers confirm existence of the Force

2 hours ago

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider just recently started testing the accelerator for running at the higher energy of 13 TeV, and already they have found new insights into the fundamental structure ...

Soft, energy-efficient robotic wings

21 hours ago

Dielectric elastomers are novel materials for making actuators or motors with soft and lightweight properties that can undergo large active deformations with high-energy conversion efficiencies. This has ...

Super sensitive measurement of magnetic fields

Mar 30, 2015

There are electrical signals in the nervous system, the brain and throughout the human body and there are tiny magnetic fields associated with these signals that could be important for medical science. Researchers ...

User comments : 0

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.