Dandelions – taraxacum officinale are a very common plant with yellow-gold flowers and serrated leaves. When they wither, the flowers turn into fluffy white seed heads, which, like tiny parachutes, are scattered by the wind. Their structure inspired engineers to create a reversible air-trapping mechanism.
Dandelions have become a source of new engineering materials. For the first time in the laboratory, scientists measured the ability of the fluffy heads of dandelions immersed in water to hold air. The discovery will lead to the development of new and improved devices and technologies. They come in handy, for example, for creating devices or materials that keep air under water.
The study was coordinated by Nicola Pugno, professor at the University of Trento. The discovery received international fame in the multidisciplinary magazine Materials Today Bio.
The group of researchers noticed that when immersed in water, the soft seed heads become thinner and take on the shape of a diamond. The team then developed an analytical model to measure the mechanical properties of the flower in order to mimic them and create recycled dandelion-like materials.
The discovery will allow the creation of miniature parachute-like elements for the development of innovative devices and advanced, lightweight, and inexpensive technological solutions for capturing and transporting air bubbles underwater. These materials can be used, for example, in underwater operations.