21 July 2024
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Zero-Energy Flow Control in Deep-Sea Sponges

The Venus flower basket sponge, an intriguing deep-sea creature with a delicate glass-like lattice skeleton, has captured the attention of researchers for its remarkable ability to thrive in harsh underwater environments. A recent study conducted by an international research team, co-led by the University of Rome Tor Vergata and NYU Tandon School of Engineering, has uncovered a fascinating engineering feat in the sponge’s structure: its capability to filter feed using “zero-energy” flow control. This discovery has significant implications for designing more energy-efficient systems across various industries.

The sponge’s unique skeletal structure diverts slow deep-sea currents to flow upwards into its central body cavity, enabling it to feed on plankton and marine detritus without the need for active pumping. Through highly detailed computer simulations, researchers found that the sponge’s spiral, ridged outer surface functions like a spiral staircase, passively drawing water upwards through its porous frame. This natural ventilation system operates effectively in the near-stillness of the deep ocean floors, showcasing the sponge’s adaptation to its environment.

Engineering Insights from Nature

The study’s findings offer valuable biomimetic engineering insights that could revolutionize the design of various systems for increased efficiency. By mimicking the sponge’s ridged, porous surfaces, engineers could optimize flow patterns inside reactors, minimize drag, and enhance air filtration and ventilation systems. The asymmetric, helical ridges observed in the sponge’s structure could inspire the development of low-drag hulls or fuselages, promoting streamlined airflow while reducing energy consumption.

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Researchers utilized advanced computational tools, including the powerful Leonardo supercomputer at CINECA, to create a highly realistic 3D replica of the sponge for detailed simulations. This digital twin allowed them to explore the sponge’s fluid dynamic performance and optimize its efficiency in nutrient uptake. The team’s prior research, published in Nature in 2021, laid the groundwork for understanding how the sponge interacts with its surrounding water flow, leading to the current breakthrough in zero-energy flow control.

Implications for Energy-Efficient Designs

The discovery of the Venus flower basket sponge’s passive nutrient uptake mechanism at slow current speeds has significant implications for the development of energy-efficient technologies. By leveraging nature’s elegant solutions for maximizing resource utilization, engineers can design systems that operate more sustainably and with reduced energy consumption. The sponge’s ability to thrive in challenging conditions without active pumping highlights the potential for bio-inspired design approaches in various industries.

From chemical reactors to air purification systems, heat exchangers, hydraulic systems, and aerodynamic surfaces, the principles of zero-energy flow control observed in deep-sea sponges offer a new paradigm for efficient design. By incorporating nature’s strategies for passive fluid dynamics, engineers can create innovative solutions that not only enhance performance but also reduce environmental impact and energy usage.

Future Directions and Applications

As researchers continue to explore the intricate mechanisms of the Venus flower basket sponge and other biofluidic systems, the potential for translating these insights into practical applications grows. The development of advanced materials and structures inspired by nature’s efficiency could lead to breakthroughs in various fields, from aerospace engineering to sustainable architecture.

By harnessing the principles of zero-energy flow control and biomimicry, engineers and designers can unlock new possibilities for creating energy-efficient technologies that are in harmony with the environment. The Venus flower basket sponge serves as a reminder of the ingenuity of natural systems and the wealth of inspiration they offer for solving complex engineering challenges.

Links to additional Resources:

1. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960982222004174 2. phys.org/news/2022-08-deep-sea-sponge-zero-energy-flow.html 3. nature.com/articles/s41598-022-17669-1

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Venus flower basket sponge, Biomimetics, Computational fluid dynamics

Venus' flower basket
The Venus' flower basket (Euplectella aspergillum) is a glass sponge in the phylum Porifera. It is a marine sponge found in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean, usually at depths below 500 m (1,600 ft). Like other sponges, they feed by filtering sea water to capture plankton and marine...
Read more: Venus' flower basket

Biomimetics
Biomimetics or biomimicry is the emulation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. The terms "biomimetics" and "biomimicry" are derived from Ancient Greek: βίος (bios), life, and μίμησις (mīmēsis), imitation, from μιμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), to imitate, from μῖμος (mimos), actor. A closely...
Read more: Biomimetics

Computational fluid dynamics
Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical analysis and data structures to analyze and solve problems that involve fluid flows. Computers are used to perform the calculations required to simulate the free-stream flow of the fluid, and the interaction of the fluid (liquids and...
Read more: Computational fluid dynamics

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