Butterfly Proboscis as Engineering Prototype


Lepidoptera proboscises as prototypes of multifunctional fluidic devices with distributed actuation and sensing.

PI Name: Konstantin Kornev, Peter Adler (Co-Principal Investigator), Richard Groff (Co-Principal Investigator), Alexey Vertegel (Co-Principal Investigator),  and Kenneth Christensen (Co-Principal Investigator)Institution: Clemson University

Butterflies and moths, constituting the order Lepidoptera, have inspired decades of engineering research in aerodynamics, optics, and navigation. This project focuses on the lepidopteran proboscis, which is poorly explored from an engineering perspective. The goal is to develop fundamental principles of fiber-based microfluidics inspired by the lepidopteran fluidic system, and apply these principles to the design, fabrication, and manipulation of a new class of fiber-based devices capable of transporting and probing a previously impossible range of liquids. These principles will be validated using biological data from Lepidoptera. Through collaboration of engineers, chemists, and biologists, bioinspired proboscises will be fabricated by taking advantage of modern fiber technology, which offers fiber multifunctionality such as mechanical/electromagnetic memory, improved absorbency, and controlled wettability. A biomimetic approach will be developed for actuation, sensing, and control of the synthetic proboscis. The advantages will be illustrated for an artificial proboscis to probe fluids from individual vascular smooth muscle cells. The lepidopteran fluidic system is envisioned as shifting the current microfluidic paradigm from stationary channel-like structures to fiber-based microfluidic devices, providing distributed actuation, sensing, and manipulation with minute amounts of fluids. The project will serve as a catalyst for development of novel science, engineering, and technology at the interface of biology, chemistry, materials science, and mechanical, electrical, and bioengineering. The basic principles, identified by a multidisciplinary group, will impact multiple fields, including (i) integrative biology by providing insight into the physical function of the lepidopteran fluidic system, (ii) materials science by offering new knowledge on fluid-fiber interactions and relevant fiber design parameters, (iii) robotics and control by developing biomimetic methods for shape and fluid control, and (iv) bioengineering by developing proboscis-inspired tissue-fluid probes. The basic principles can be applied to the design of a wide range of future devices, as in applications requiring low-volume fluid retrieval and analysis coupled with controlled manipulation, such as environmental monitoring and biomedical and forensic probing.


Monaenkova, D., M. S. Lehnert, T. Andrukh, C. E. Beard, B. Rubin, A. Tokarev, W.-K. Lee, P. H. Adler and K. G. Kornev. 2011. Butterfly proboscis: combining a drinking straw with a nanosponge facilitated diversification of feeding habits. Journal of the Royal Society Interface Sept. 7, 2011  doi:10.1098/rsif.2011.0392

Lehnert, M. S., D. Monaenkova, T. Andrukh, C. E. BEARD, P. H. Adler, and K. G. Kornev 2013. Hydrophobic-hydrophilic dichotomy of the butterfly proboscis. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Posted online June 12, 2013. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2013.0336.


Dr. Kornev's research pages