The objective of this research is to understand how insects produce and control internal flows and to use this knowledge to create novel, highly efficient, bio-inspired fluid-transport systems. Current approaches to flow delivery and regulation in complex microsystems rely on targeted actuation and active control. In contrast, insects have evolved over millions of years to efficiently manage flows using flexible tissues, simple actuation, and passive, distributed control built into the network itself. The approach combines synchrotron x-ray imaging of internal insect dynamics, material characterization of insect vessels, fluid mechanics modeling and experiments, and advanced micromechanical fabrication technology.
The intellectual merit of the proposed research effort includes transformation of the accepted approach to fluid-based transport in small-scale systems, further development of advanced experimental and fabrication techniques, and fundamental advances in the understanding of insect physiology. The proposed research has the potential to change the paradigm for flow delivery and regulation in small-scale systems, leading to new bioengineered tissues and energy-efficient, biomedically-implantable microdevices.
The broader impacts will include integrating the findings from this project into educational programs at the K-12 and university levels. New lessons that integrate biology and engineering will be developed with under-represented students in urban and rural classrooms. The broader public will also be educated through direct involvement with new television and film productions of National Geographic. Additionally, a deeper understanding of how insect respiration and circulation work will lead to novel mechanisms for targeted biocontrol, enabling economically significant advances in agricultural, residential, and commercial pest management.