A microchip with wings, the size of a grain of sand, has become the smallest human-made device with the ability to fly. The new microflier, as its inventors call it University Northwestern, it has no motor. Instead, it is capable of moving with the wind, much like the propeller seed of a tree maple, and spins like a helicopter through the air to the ground.
By studying maples and other types of wind-dispersed seeds, the engineers optimized the aerodynamics of the microflier to ensure that it falls at a slow speed in a controlled manner. This behavior stabilizes its flight, ensures dispersion over a wide area, and increases the amount of time it interacts with the air, making it ideal for monitor airborne disease and pollution.
As the smallest flying structures ever created by man, these microfliers can also be packed with ultra-miniaturized technology, including sensors, power sources, antennas for wireless communication, and onboard memory to store data. The investigation appears in the cover of the September 23 issue of the journal Nature.
“Our goal was to add winged flight to small-scale electronic systems, with the idea that these capabilities would allow us to distribute highly functional miniaturized electronic devices to detect the environment for pollution monitoring, population surveillance or monitoring. of diseases, ”he said it’s a statement Professor John A. Rogers of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who led the development of the device.
“We were able to do that using ideas inspired by the biological world. Over billions of years, nature has engineered seeds with highly sophisticated aerodynamics. We borrow those design concepts, adapt them, and apply them to electronic circuit platforms, ”said Rogers, a pioneer in bioelectronics.
Most people have seen the propeller seed of a maple leaf spin in the air and land softly on the sidewalk. This is just one example of how nature has developed smart and sophisticated methods to increase the survival of various plants. By ensuring that the seeds are widely dispersed, sedentary plants and trees can spread their species over great distances to populate wide areas.
“Evolution was probably the driving force behind the sophisticated aerodynamic properties exhibited by many kinds of seeds,” said Rogers. “These biological structures are designed to fall in a slow and controlled manner so that they can interact with wind patterns for the longest period of time possible.”
To design the microfliers, the team studied the aerodynamics of various plant seeds, taking more direct inspiration from the tristellateia plant, a flowering vine with star-shaped seeds. Tristellateia seeds have sharp wings that catch the wind to fall with a slow, twisting turn.
Rogers and his team designed and built many different types of microfliers, including one with three wings, optimized for shapes and angles similar to the wings of a tristellateia seed. To identify the most ideal structure, Huang led large-scale computational modeling of how air flows around the device, to imitate the slow and controlled rotation of the tristellateia seed.
Based on this model, Rogers’ group built and tested structures in the laboratory, using advanced methods to image and quantify flow patterns in collaboration with Leonardo Chamorro, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. .
With information from Europa Press.