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Volume 595 Issue 7865, 1 July 2021

Cellular fluidics

Efficient systems for transporting fluids abound in the natural world, but they tend to be complex and problematic to replicate. In this week’s issue, Eric Duoss and his colleagues present a biologically inspired platform that joins together small cubes (or ‘unit cells’) to create 3D networks that can mimic some of the fluid transport systems found in nature. The researchers call their approach ‘cellular fluidics’ and they use 3D printing to create the millimetre-scale cubic cells that act as the building blocks for their networks. Liquid transport through the assembled systems is achieved by controlled capillary action. To demonstrate the system, the team assembled a tree-like structure that continuously moved liquid from a reservoir at the ‘roots’ up to the ‘branches’ where it was lost through evaporation, thereby mimicking transpiration. The cover further reimagines this transport process and shows an artist’s impression of bio-inspired vasculature based on cellular fluidics.

Cover image: Jacob Long

This Week

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    A technological platform has been developed in which millimetre-scale cubes are assembled into 3D structures that control capillary action — enabling programmable fluid flows and modelling of a range of fluidic processes.

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    Cellular fluidics provides a platform of unit-cell-based, three-dimensional structures for the deterministic control of multiphase flow, transport and reaction processes.

    • Nikola A. Dudukovic
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