In the Lab: Beetle Juice

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bombadierbeetle.jpgWe know you’re busy, so we’ll forgive you for overlooking this week’s announcement that researchers at England’s University of Leeds have discovered a way to mimic the toxic defensive spray of the bombardier beetle. But you’ll want to sit up and pay attention when you find out why: to create a new water-based compression technology called µMist that’s being touted as the key to everything from improved fuel efficiency to next generation fire suppression to chemical-free drug delivery.

The lead researcher, Professor Andy McIntosh, describes the beetle’s abilities as a type of complex pressure cooker. “Essentially it’s a high-force steam cavitation explosion,” he says in the release, “Using a chamber less than one millimeter long, this amazing creature has the ability to change the rapidity of what comes out, its direction and its consistency.”

The µMist spray technology represents a huge potential leap forward for the precision control of droplet size, velocity and consistency, which in turn could have a massive impact on the efficiency of any system that uses mist as a delivery system–namely fire suppression, medical drug delivery and of course, fuel injection. The team has built a 2-cm chamber that can deliver mists up to 13 feet away, or produce a mist as fine as two microns. Hmm, imagine a fire extinguisher that fits in your pocket…

Say it with us now: Beetle juice, beetle juice, beetle juice. Biotech startup Swedish Biomimetics 3000, a self-described “V2PIO” (that’s virtual venture philanthropic intersectional organization), found the research so promising that the company has inked a worldwide exclusive development and marketing deal for the µMist technology. No word yet on when these beetles will make their U.S. invasion.

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