Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering
Natural and machine olfaction and cube-shaped poo
Dr. David Hu
Georgia Institute of Technology
Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 2:00:00 PM
The need to escape predators, find mates, and detect prey has pushed the envelope for speed and sensitivity in odor detection. Understanding how animals achieve their sensitive sense of smell can lead to better electronic noses. In this talk, we present the fluid mechanics underlying the olfactory abilities of moths and mammals, spanning eight orders of magnitude in body mass. Male moths can detect female moths from over 6 km away, and dogs have a lower detection limit of one part per trillion, which is three orders of magnitude more sensitive than today's instruments. We mimic the deposition of odor particles using laboratory wind tunnels that generate both steady-state and periodic flow to mimic sniffing. Critical to both processes is slowing the airflow to encourage diffusion to the sensors. In the remaining time, I will talk about my experiences winning an Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard University for showing how wombats make cube-shaped poo.
Dr. David Hu is a mechanical engineer who studies animal movement. Originally from Rockville, Maryland, he earned degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering from M.I.T., and is now Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Georgia Tech. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award for young scientists, two Ig Nobel Prizes in Physics, three Pineapple Science Prizes (the Ig Nobel of China), the American Institute of Physics Science Communication Award, and others. His work been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Saturday Night Live, Highlights for Children, and he has been an invited guest on Good Morning America, Discovery Channel, National Public Radio. He is the author of the book 'How to Walk on Water and Climb up walls,' published by Princeton University Press, and a 2020 Finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Young Adult Science Books. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/science/hu-robotics.html