City Research Online

Sensing of minute airflow motions near walls using pappus-type nature-inspired sensors

Bruecker, C. & Mikulich, V. (2017). Sensing of minute airflow motions near walls using pappus-type nature-inspired sensors. PLoS One, 12(6), article number e0179253. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179253


This work describes the development and use of pappus-like structures as sensitive sensors to detect minute air-flow motions. We made such sensors from pappi taken from nature-grown seed, whose filiform hairs' length-scale is suitable for the study of large-scale turbulent convection flows. The stem with the pappus on top is fixated on an elastic membrane on the wall and tilts under wind-load proportional to the velocity magnitude in direction of the wind, similar as the biological sensory hairs found in spiders, however herein the sensory hair has multiple filiform protrusions at the tip. As the sensor response is proportional to the drag on the tip and a low mass ensures a larger bandwidth, lightweight pappus structures similar as those found in nature with documented large drag are useful to improve the response of artificial sensors. The pappus of a Dandelion represents such a structure which has evolved to maximize wind-driven dispersion, therefore it is used herein as the head of our sensor. Because of its multiple hairs arranged radially around the stem it generates uniform drag for all wind directions. While still being permeable to the flow, the hundreds of individual hairs on the tip of the sensor head maximize the drag and minimize influence of pressure gradients or shear-induced lift forces on the sensor response as they occur in non-permeable protrusions. In addition, the flow disturbance by the sensor itself is limited. The optical recording of the head-motion allows continuously remote-distance monitoring of the flow fluctuations in direction and magnitude. Application is shown for the measurement of a reference flow under isothermal conditions to detect the early occurrence of instabilities.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Sensing of minute airflow motions near walls using pappus-type nature-inspired sensors.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login