Inspired by the fluttering seeds, researchers designed a tiny, winged microchip that is powerful enough to monitor environmental contamination, biohazards, and airborne disease. Here it is shown next to a lady bug for scale.
When a breeze whips through a bigleaf maple, paper-thin, wing-like seeds called samaras, whirl into action and gently spin towards the ground. Also known as helicopter seeds, the fruit’s tissue allows the wind to guide it further away from the tree. Inspired by the fluttering seeds, researchers designed a tiny, winged microchip—no larger than a grain of sand—that is powerful enough to monitor environmental contamination, biohazards, and airborne disease, reports Scientific American’s Nikk Ogasa. Details of the sensor’s sleek design were described this month in the research journal Nature.
“Over the course of billions of years, nature has designed seeds with very sophisticated aerodynamics. We borrowed those design concepts, adapted them, and applied them to electronic circuit platforms,” says study author John A. Rogers, a nanomaterials expert at Northwestern University.
The research team refined various designs from the aerodynamic simulations until the microfliers drifted slowly and more steadily than nature’s samara seeds. The blades can keep smooth and steady flight because the chip’s blades have spinning motions that stabilize it, and decrease the rate at which it descends.
F. Frankel/Northwestern University
Dubbed the microflier by the …….