Upside-down flower grabs liquid as its petals close
Motivated by aquatic flowers, Professors Pedro Reis (CEE and MechE) and John Bush (Mathematics) recently designed an upside-down floral pipette whose petals grab liquid as they close. This mechanism was inspired by the behavior of water lilies, which float at the surface of ponds or lakes while anchored to the floor. As water rises, hydrostatic and surface tension forces act to bend and eventually close the lily’s petals, thereby preventing water from flooding in. Reis’s upside-down flower pipette does the opposite, grabbing water as it’s pulled up, thereby reversing the role of gravity. (This work was published in Soft Matter online Oct. 14, 2010.) The researchers calculated the optimal petal size for capturing a small sip of liquid and then fabricated synthetic flowers through casting, each of which is about 35 millimeters wide — about the size of a small dandelion. This liquid grabber design is now being used by Spanish José Andrés, one of the world’s leading chefs, as a means of serving a palate-cleansing liquid between courses. View a video of the petal grabber. Read a news story.