February 21, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Submarine, Make Like a Fish

Submarine designers are learning a thing or two from fish.  The latest fish trick to imitate is the lateral line: a row of specialized sensors fish have along their flanks.  Fish use these for synchronized swimming and predator avoidance.  EurekAlert reported on work by scientists at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne to build artificial lateral line sensors on submarines to augment visual and sonar systems.  The sensors on the artificial lateral line detect changes in water pressure and movement.  They may one day allow submarine operators to “autonomously image hydrodynamic events from their surroundings.”
    Team lead Chang Liu expressed the motivation behind the work: “Although biology remains far superior to human engineering, having a man-made parallel of the biological system allows us to learn much about both basic science and engineering.  To actively learn from biology at the molecular, cellular, tissue and organism level is still the bigger picture.”

The 1960s slogan was: better living through chemistry.  The 2005+ slogan is, better living through biology – or, make like an animal.

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