Here's a new type of water pump inspired by the flapping wings of birds

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Two New York University researchers have taken inspiration from the action of the wings of birds to create a pump which moves fluid using vibration.

“When we use a household pump, that pump is very likely a centrifugal pump. It uses a high-speed rotor to move water by throwing it from the pump’s inlet to the outlet,” says Benjamin Thiria, who carried out the work in collaboration with Jun Zhang.

Birds manipulate airflow each time they flap their wings, pushing air in one direction and moving themselves in another.

Instead of a rotor, Thiria and Zhang’s design has teeth. Two sawtoothed panels, placed with their teeth facing each other, create a channel whichcan rapidly open and close. Water rushes into the channel when it expands and is forced out when it contracts.

“When a fluid is squeezed and expanded repeatedly, the asymmetric boundary forces the fluid to move in one direction,” said Zhang.

When a fluid is squeezed and expanded repeatedly between two sawtooth-like boundaries, a net flow is generated to the right. Image: B. Thiria & J. Zhang

The pump would be useful in industrial situations where machinery is vibrating excessively. The energy from the vibration could be captured and used for a productive task such as circulating coolant. It would also dampen the noise from the vibrating machinery.

The results of the research are published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

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