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Proceedings Paper

Biomimetic inspiration from fire and combustion in nature including the bombardier beetle
Author(s): A. C. McIntosh
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Paper Abstract

In this paper we explore the issue of fire and explosion in natural phenomena with a view to biomimetic applications. We study two examples. One area is the area of trees which use fire to propagate their seeds - the Monterey, Bishop and Knobcone pine (all in the US Pacific Northwest) have this ability which means that the cones remain closed for long periods of time. Some, such as the Knobcone will only open under high temperature such as in a fire. There are other pines such as the Banksia (Australia) which also operate in the same way. It is possible that these material features could have benefit to the community in developing fire proof materials. Another example of fire and explosion in nature is the bombardier beetle. This insect has the remarkable ability that it can resist an attacker with a powerful jet of hot, toxic fluid. It reacts small amounts of hydroquinone with hydrogen peroxide in the presence of the catalysts catalase and peroxidase and the spray is then ejected from combustion chambers in its rear end. Recent work has demonstrated that certain parts of the anatomy are in fact inlet and outlet valves and that the intake and exhaust valve mechanism involves a repeated (pulsating) steam explosion. The research has shown the characteristics of these ejections and an experimental rig mimicking the major physics of the beetle ejection system has been built which shows clearly the importance of the valve system for getting good spray characteristics.

Paper Details

Date Published: 21 August 2009
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 7401, Biomimetics and Bioinspiration, 74010F (21 August 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.825477
Show Author Affiliations
A. C. McIntosh, Univ. of Leeds (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7401:
Biomimetics and Bioinspiration
Raul J. Martin-Palma; Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Editor(s)

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