Breakfast Club Seminar Series

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"Ant Rafts and other Water-repellent Systems"

David Hu, PhD - Assistant Professor, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

We present a series of experiments demonstrating the water-repellent adaptations of a range of animals, from insects to mammals. These adaptations are necessary for survival in rain and other wet environments. During flash floods, fire ants weave hydrophobic rafts with their own bodies in order to keep their colonies dry. We discuss their method of self-assembly and present a model that predicts their construction rate. To survive raindrop impacts, flying insects take advantage of their low mass, which prevents drops from splashing on them. The resulting impact force on flying mosquitoes is 100-300 gravities, quite possibly the largest in the natural world. For such small insects, small size is advantageous in rain. If an animals is large, active mechanisms must be employed to shed water. Mammals of all sizes can shake off 70% of the water on their bodies in fractions of a second. We show that wet mammals shake at tuned frequencies to dry and present a scaling law relating animal size and frequencies required to dry. In this talk, the audience will learn the basics of modeling and experimentation with surface-tension phenomena.

The IBB Breakfast Club seminar series was started with the spirit of the Institute's interdisciplinary mission in mind. The goal of the seminar series is to highlight research taking place throughout the institute to enable the IBB community to further collaborative opportunities and interdisciplinary research. Faculty are often asked to speak at other universities and conferences, but rarely present at their home institution, this seminar series is an attempt to close that gap. The IBB Breakfast Club is open to anyone in the bio-community.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Colly Mitchell
  • Created: 11/17/2011
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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