Announcement of CNIE Inspiration Grant: 3D Printing underwater: the regenerative fishing nets of salps

19 January 2016

We are pleased to announce that Dr Brenda Parker (in collaboration with Dr Will Goodall-Copestake, British Antarctic Survey) has been awarded a Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering Inspiration Grant to perform a collaboratory project – "3D Printing underwater: the regenerative fishing nets of salps" between UCL and British Antarctic Survey.

Salps are considered to be one of the most efficient filter feeders in the world’s oceans. They are gelatinous zooplankton approximately 1-15 cm in length that near-continuously swim and filter the water passing through their barrel-shaped bodies. Estimates of filtration rates suggest that some species can remove sub-micrometre to millimetre sized particles from the equivalent of 55 litres of seawater per hour. This is achieved using a novel tangential flow filtration system that operates at low Reynolds numbers and which incorporates a dynamically generated net. These regenerative ‘fishing nets’ are comprised of glycoproteins and are deployed behind the oral opening then subsequently drawn into the stomach together with adhering food particles. In order to minimise energy expenditure, salps appear able to adapt the rate at which these nets are produced.

During the course of this Inspiration Grant, the team plans to use genetics data for the first time to investigate the expression of key genes associated with the production of salp fishing nets. At present, little is known about these or indeed how salps control the transition from an aqueous phase high molecular weight glycoprotein polymer into a water-insoluble/gel fibre. By gaining a greater understanding of events relating to the initiation, fabrication and deployment of the salp feeding mechanism, and the active motifs and processes which enable this to happen continuously over the lifetime of the animal, the team can establish design principles which may help us address challenges within biochemical engineering. The team then will seek to apply these principles for the purpose of building energy efficient continuous filtration systems and developing mechanisms of producing sustainable biomaterials.


The details of photo are - it was taken by Camille Moreau on BAS cruise JR287, the yellow glow comes from phytoplankton concentrated within the internal glycoprotein net. The yellow line on the left side of the salp reveals the open edge of this net near the oral opening, the orange-yellow dot on the right that is the stomach into which the net is drawn.

 Announcement of CNIE Inspiration Grant: 3D Printing underwater: the regenerative fishing nets of salps