by Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine

The battery-free devices could be used to gather environmental data over long distances and provide insights into an ecosystem’s health.

Taking inspiration from floating dandelion seeds, University of Washington researchers developed tiny sensors that measure humidity, air pressure, and light. As these miniature devices float along with the wind, they can provide unique insights into how climate change affects hard-to-reach ecosystems in a warming world, reports Jaime Priest for Cosmos.

The whimsical, circular device is solar powered and does not require batteries. After being released from a drone, the sensors can ride a breeze up to 100 meters, or the length of a football field. Scientists hope that thousands of these tiny wagon wheel–shaped instruments can collect environmental data and monitor humidity or temperature fluctuations, reports Jennifer Walter for Inverse. Details on the new tech were published this month in Nature.

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