How a bug using its butt to flick urine drops can keep your smartwatch dry

The glass-winged snipe is an impressive insect when it urinates, and could inspire more efficient designs for waterproof devices.

Saad was campaigning in his vegetable garden in Atlanta, Georgia, when he first noticed this feat. The sniper forms neat, round urine drops that you cut at lightning speed. Bhamla, a Georgia Tech assistant professor of biomolecular engineering, whipped out his iPhone to take some slow motion videos.

“The more I zoomed in, the more I realized he was doing something interesting,” says Bhamla. the edge.

“The more I zoomed in, the more I realized he was doing something interesting.”

It turns out that the sniper accomplishes something with his urine that hasn’t been documented in a biological system yet—a phenomenon called superthrust. How the sniper does this is detailed in Dossier Research paper Bhamla and colleagues report this week in the journal Nature Communications. And it might just help humans figure out how to achieve super thrust, too — not with peeing but with smartwatches and other devices that dry themselves.

Simply put, super-thrust allows an elastic object to fly at speeds faster than the object it’s launching. The precise timing between the squishy body and catapult gives the body a boost of energy. To understand this phenomenon, consider an Olympic diver, Bhamla explains. A skilled diver may adjust a jump to get the maximum two-ton energy from the springboard.

After capturing the videos with his iPhone, Bhamla and his colleagues turned to high-speed cameras and microscopes to get a closer look at the sniper. What they found was an anal pen, aka a butt flash, and that’s the key to the unique way the insect takes care of its business. The rear flicker moves backward to make room for the incoming urine, allowing it to form a drop on the tip of the insect’s tail. At the same time, the flash compresses the droplet, allowing the energy to build up surface tension.

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Once the drop is the right size and shape, the flasher rotates back another 15 degrees. Then it The drop flicks away like a pinball. The butt flash is incredibly fast, accelerating at more than 40 Gs, which is 40 times faster than the acceleration of a brisk cheetah. Even more amazing is that the urine flies at a higher speed than the butt flashes – a telltale sign of overdrive.

As an added benefit, this tactic is also very energy efficient. After all, the droplet is moving faster than its catapult launch. Snipers actually urinate this way to save energy because they urinate a lot. Cannibals will drink and urinate up to 300 times their body weight in a day because they have a diet that is very low in calories and lacks nutrients from plant sap. And she has to squirt her urine away to prevent the drop from sticking to her like a ball of maple syrup.

What does this have to do with the smart watch? For example, the Apple Watch’s Water Lock feature can squirt water out of the device after swimming. But as far as Hamla is aware, devices like this do not yet use hyperthrus. If engineers can learn from the sniper, they may be able to design more efficient water expulsion systems for the devices. This way, you can keep your watch dry and charged for a longer period as well. The same kind of technology could be used in hearing aids or anything else you want to make waterproof.

The researchers tested the method using loudspeakers.
picture: Bhamla Lab

Bhamla and his team tested sniper tactics by bouncing water off loudspeakers on kitchen counters. They used the vibration of the speakers to compress the tiny droplets, building up surface tension. With precise timing, they can then launch the drops at high speeds.

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Appropriate though it may seem, this useful trick is not what has earned the insect the nickname “sniper.” Mostly known in the United States as a lesion for farmers. It could look like his bite marks Like tiny bullet holes in the leaves, and can transmit the disease from one plant to another. Abundant urination can also lead to blanching of the fruit.

Bhamla hopes his research will inspire more people to look at insects with new perspectives. “I think it will make kids young at heart and at their age to go out into their backyards and look and have fun,” he said. the edge. “It’s so much fun. That’s good enough for me.”

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