A new invention uses biomimicry to make inkjet printers more efficient. An engineering professor from the University of Missouri invented a mechanism for inkjet nozzles that keeps the surface wet.

“The nozzle cover we invented was inspired by the human eye,” said Jae Wan Kwon, associate professor of engineering at the University of Missouri. “The eye and an inkjet nozzle have a common problem: They must not be allowed to dry while, simultaneously, they must open.”

The nozzle cover uses a droplet of silicone oil, which is moved in and out of place with an electric field, to keep the nozzle tip wet. Ordinary inkjet printers must clear dried ink from their nozzles regularly to maintain operation, which can be wasteful. This invention solves that problem. The clog-free nozzle could save homes and businesses money, say the researchers who worked on the project.

An academic paper explaining the invention was published in the Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems and can be found here.

Human Eye Inspires Clog-free Ink Jet Printer Invented by MU Researcher from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

[See 13 more examples of biomimicry in this Treehugger.com slideshow of technologies inspired by nature.]