ROAD STUD INSPIRED FROM SPITTLE BUG

Problem Statement

A cat’s eye, retro-reflective device, is an obsolete method of road safety. Not only its protrusion damages a tire, it depends upon an incident beam to function. To compensate for its little functionality, street light poles are installed which may be 30 to 100 feet apart (distance between two poles is calculated based on luminary value of bulb and pole details). And yet this road safety system fails in a dense-fog condition (when visibility is reduced to 1/4th of a mile or less). Furthermore, this combination of solutions requires too much material and infrastructure for a rather simpler task, visibility. We need a new model, a singular system of road safety which works under all climatic conditions.

Solution in Nature

The central issue here is to provide drivers with both visibility and safety. Different tactics, behaviors and processes were sought in natural world where an organism repels another either by an activity or a biochemical process. A remarkably fitting situation was found in the insect world. A spittle bug nymph called Aphrophora Cribrata excretes a foam from its body which is non-toxic but comprises of chemicals which repels its predators. The prizing outcome of such a fragile and fleeting function is life. There are three important factors in this defense mechanism:
1. It works as a function of behavior as opposed to the physical defense. Composition of the foam, though reproachful to the predator, is non-toxic. Had it (predator, usually an ant) decided to get through the foam, its nice little meal would easily have been trapped on a branch with nowhere else to go.
2. It is a temporary defense mechanism.
3. A spittle bug functions as an autonomous manufacturing plant. Chemical processes in spittle bug take place at regular outside temperature and pressure. It has full control over the path and extent of production of the foam.

Technology Review


Row1Column1: A Pine Spittlebug
Row1Column2: Pine Spittlebug’s Larva
Row1Column3: An Example of Fog-related Traffic Problems
Row2Column4: Phospholipids Aqueous Solution Structures
Row2Column1: Membrane Rearrangement, Drainage and Rupture in a Cluster of Soap Bubble
Row2Column2: Bubble Constructions Using a Wand and a Straw
Row2Column3: Frei Otto’s Experiments with Soap Bubbles
Row2Column4: Mathematical Shape “Catenoid” Made of a Soap Film
Row3Column1: Water Cube
Row3Column2: Mathematics of the Surface Area of Soap Bubble
Row3Column3: An Example of Luminescent Soap Material
Row3Column4: Glow-in-the-dark Cosmetic Pigment
Row4Column1: Temperature and Humidity Sensor
Row4Column2: A Biodegradable Foam Created from Milk and Clay
Row4Column3: Bioluminescent Fog for Military and Law Enforcement
Row4Column4: Road Rainwater Collection

Foam formation turns out to be a rather controllable phenomenon. Architects and mathematicians have produced underlying rules and geometries of soap-bubble formation and proliferation. This, along with the innovation in luminescent materials direct us towards a singular solution to road visibility and safety.

A thin continuous covered channel is proposed which runs along the path as a road line. It contains foam-generating devices filled with luminescent fluids. Small water nozzles clean up the channel from inside. Such visibility channels would replace all the light poles and road studs etc. And, as synergistic reward, these luminous channels will help us get rid of some of the light pollution we have been creating ceaselessly. With these new channels perhaps, we might be able to locate ourselves past our destination on road, into the universe under a starry sky. Presented below are functional drawings of these luminous channels.

Production Drawing

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