By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Design
Have you ever seen a water droplet bounce off the surface of a glass of water? Here's what it looks like at 2,000 frames per second -- and why it could help us build a smarter boat.
If you keep reading this post, you will.
The surface tension of liquids is a well-known, extremely complex physics phenomenon that's impressive even while watching it at everyday speed.
But what if you trained a video camera that's capable of recording it at 2,000 frames per second?
Our friends at the Discovery Channel found out:
The world is indeed an amazing place.
Why is this important to a SmartPlanet reader, you ask? Because surface tension could help us build a smarter boat.
Inspired by beetle larvae, University of Pittsburgh researchers one year ago designed a propulsion system that harnesses the energy within the water's surface.
Without paddles, sails or motors, the technique destabilizes the surface tension surrounding the object with an electric pulse and causes the craft to move via the surface's natural pull. (Read the full .pdf abstract here.)
That means propulsion is both efficient -- it uses a low-energy electrode that could be powered by battery, radio waves or solar rays -- and low-maintenance, since it requires no moving parts.
The technique can be used in small robots and other watercraft that are normally propeller-driven, for acute tasks such as monitoring water quality in bodies of water.
So the next time you see a water drop, watch closely. You might be looking at the catalyst for another smart system.
Feb 12, 2010