Having 'the knack' for engineering sometimes involves looking at already existing systems prevalent in nature and trying to turn them into machines that are inspired by the natural design of our world. This is no different. The structure of the mouths of filter-feeding fish has given engineers the idea to build fluid-filtering mechanisms based on the design of fish mouths.
In a study published in the Nature Communications journal, the team behind a new crossflow filtration design come out of the College of William and Mary. From the abstract of their journal, the team writes: "Suspension-feeding fishes such as goldfish and whale sharks retain prey without clogging their oral filters, whereas clogging is a major expense in industrial crossflow filtration of beer, dairy foods, and biotechnology products."
Jason McDevitt, director of technology transfer at the College of William and Mary calls the revelations that filtration systems resemble oral filters from fish a "great example of biomimetic technology." He added, "We are particularly hopeful that this technology will be commercially developed and widely used for crossflow filtration."
The team built a "vortical cross-step filtration model" that removes the chance of clogging materials, using a "hydrodynamic tongue" to assist the materials along, preventing any clogging. The "vortical cross-step filtration model" would look very similar to a fish's mouth, granted you've pulled one out of the sea or lake and marveled at the inside of its mouth. If you have done that, you would have seen the 'ribs' in the mouth of the fish, which have been replicated in the model and assist a more efficient filtration system.
Using juvenile paddlefish - who swim with their mouths open and consume prey that way - were researched and learned from. The models were 3-D printed into cone-shaped nylon plastic models modeled after the mouths of the paddlefish and have now given more insight into creating filtration systems directly similar to the mouths of these fish.
For the full report and study notes: Click here