SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Thomas Spencer
TIME: Thursday, October 3, 2019, 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: EBB Building, 5029
TITLE: Fluid dynamics of biological and mechanical sniffing
COMMITTEE: Dr. David Hu, Chair (ME)
Dr. Alexander Alexeev (ME)
Dr. Craig Forest (ME)
Dr. Daniel Goldman (Physics)
Dr. Mike Farrell (GTRI ACL)


Animals observe their chemical environment via complex olfactory systems. The structures and fluid transport mechanisms have been shown to be of great importance for animal chemical sensing. We propose to elucidate the anatomical and kinematic adaptations of olfactory systems based on the interaction between the air transporting the odorants and the structures collecting the molecules. We then look to utilize this knowledge to mimic the structures and kinematics in order to improve upon existing machine olfaction. In our preliminary work, we found that in an external olfaction system, a moth antenna, an optimally angled structure increases the time a chemical has to diffuse onto the sensing surface. In this thesis proposal, we will investigate the olfaction process on external, internal, and mechanical systems. We hypothesize that the internal system has a tuned frequency of air movement to enable the best chemical collection. We will perform a combination of comparative anatomy measurements, wind tunnel testing, computational fluid dynamics, sensor development and evaluation, and prototype construction. We aim to relate the temporal and structural components of olfactory systems to successful chemical capture. These studies will shed light on the optimal chemical collection strategies for internal and external sensors and will provide guidance for the design of improved chemical detectors. The findings will then be applied to defense applications in bio-hazard identification.