21 August 2009 Biomimetic inspiration from fire and combustion in nature including the bombardier beetle
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Abstract
In this paper we explore the issue of fire and explosion in natural phenomena with a view to biomimetic applications. We study two examples. One area is the area of trees which use fire to propagate their seeds - the Monterey, Bishop and Knobcone pine (all in the US Pacific Northwest) have this ability which means that the cones remain closed for long periods of time. Some, such as the Knobcone will only open under high temperature such as in a fire. There are other pines such as the Banksia (Australia) which also operate in the same way. It is possible that these material features could have benefit to the community in developing fire proof materials. Another example of fire and explosion in nature is the bombardier beetle. This insect has the remarkable ability that it can resist an attacker with a powerful jet of hot, toxic fluid. It reacts small amounts of hydroquinone with hydrogen peroxide in the presence of the catalysts catalase and peroxidase and the spray is then ejected from combustion chambers in its rear end. Recent work has demonstrated that certain parts of the anatomy are in fact inlet and outlet valves and that the intake and exhaust valve mechanism involves a repeated (pulsating) steam explosion. The research has shown the characteristics of these ejections and an experimental rig mimicking the major physics of the beetle ejection system has been built which shows clearly the importance of the valve system for getting good spray characteristics.
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A. C. McIntosh, "Biomimetic inspiration from fire and combustion in nature including the bombardier beetle", Proc. SPIE 7401, Biomimetics and Bioinspiration, 74010F (21 August 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.825477; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.825477
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