Inventing winged chips to track air pollution

Researchers have created a winged chip the size of a grain of sand that may be the smallest flying device made to date. It is designed to be carried by wind and can be used in many applications including disease tracking and air pollution, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, it can be made of biodegradable materials to prevent environmental pollution.


The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees, and they fall slowly by rotating like helicopters so that the wind can pick them up and spread them for a long distance.


Professor John A. Rogers said, we think we beat the biology and were able to build structures that are located in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than similar seeds. The other thing is that we were able to make these helicopter structures that are much smaller than seeds that might You see in the natural world. It's not so small that the aerodynamics start to fall apart, all the design advantages of the helicopter start to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it to the limit, as far as you can go or as physics allows.


Just as the devices are big enough to carry electronics, sensors, and power sources, the team also tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like an antenna so they could connect wirelessly to a smartphone or to each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality, and solar radiation.


The flyers are still concepts for now and aren't ready for atmospheric deployment, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs, the key to using biodegradable materials so they don't persist in the environment.

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