Whirling maple seeds inspired these tiny flying sensors

Like helicoptering maple seeds, tiny new fliers whirl gracefully as they glide.

The miniature aircraft, which can be made as small as a grain of sand, could be dispersed by air over long distances. Scientists envision that these microfliers, when equipped with wee sensors for measuring environmental conditions, could monitor pH, test for heavy metals or assess hazards like chemical spills, for example. The devices could also track conditions in the atmosphere while aloft (SN: 2/12/21).

The maple tree–lined streets north of Chicago, where materials scientist John Rogers lives, served as inspiration for the new microfliers. But Rogers, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and colleagues went smaller-than-life when

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