Monday, January 26, 2009
The movement of a beetle larva inspired researchers at The University of Pittsburgh to build a boat that is propelled without the help of any moving parts. Sung Kwon Cho, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Pitt engineering doctoral students Sang Kug Chung and Kyungjoo Ryu learned that the larvae move by creating an imbalance in surface tension to propel themselves across water. The larva changes the surface tension by changing the shape of its body but Cho decided to use an electrical charge instead. The mini-boat created by the team is 2 centimeters long but Chung says someday it could be used on a much larger scale to allow boats to enter waters that until now were inaccessible. On the other hand, he says it may also be possible to miniaturize a surface tension boat that could be placed into blood vessels for medical purposes. Video of the boat can be found on the university's website: www.pitt.edu/news2009.