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Nature's phenomena might teach Virginia Tech engineers new tricks

s engineering, or even water-walking robots," Jung said.

The three will also look at the drinking in carnivorous animals, specifically cats and dogs, and incorporate fluid dynamics in their studies. Two years ago, Jung participated in a study with researchers from MIT and Princeton University that showed a cat's drinking strategy works to defeat gravity. A feline will actually pull liquid into its mouth, and this subtle biological trait was the subject of their study "How cats lap: Water uptake by Felis catus" that appeared in the journal Science.

For engineers, this finding that a cat can exploit fluid inertia to defeat gravity and pull liquid into its mouth has significant implications for the development of novel microfluidic devices.

By contrast, the domestic dog appears to scoop water into its mouth, using its highly curled tongue that penetrates into the water. The amount of fluid ingested depends on the lapping frequency and the size of the air cavity created by the canine's tongue.

"The animal systems described provide a series of examples in which the hydrodynamics of the water entry or exit enable exceptional and counter-intuitive behaviors," Jung said. "We selected them based on their apparent similarity of air cavity formations compared to numerous engineering applications operating on water surface."

Socha and Vlachos have collaborated previously on a number of projects, and their work with Jung represents another effort among a larger group of researchers at Virginia Tech interested in bio-inspired engineering.

Socha leads a large interdisciplinary team that includes engineers and biologists on the study of how insects move fluids through their bodies, including air, blood, and food. His goal is to derive new engineering principles for fluidic applications.

Vlachos, who is a previous recipient of an NSF CAREER award on arterial flow dynamics, is also a co-principal investigator on an

Contact: Lynn Nystrom
Virginia Tech

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