Physical Review Applied (2017)

DOI: 10.1103/physrevapplied.8.064002


Porpoises are small-toothed whales, and they can produce directional acoustic waves to detect and track prey with high resolution and a wide field of view. Their sound-source sizes are rather small in comparison with the wavelength so that beam control should be difficult according to textbook sonar theories. Here, we demonstrate that the multiphase material structure in a porpoise’s forehead is the key to manipulating the directional acoustic field. Computed tomography (CT) derives the multiphase (bone-air-tissue) complex, tissue experiments obtain the density and sound-velocity multiphase gradient distributions, and acoustic fields and beam formation are numerically simulated. The results suggest the control of wave propagations and sound-beam formations is realized by cooperation of the whole forehead’s tissues and structures. The melon size significantly impacts the side lobes of the beam and slightly influences the main beams, while the orientation of the vestibular sac mainly adjusts the main beams. By compressing the forehead complex, the sound beam can be expanded for near view. The porpoise’s biosonar allows effective wave manipulations for its omnidirectional sound source, which can help the future development of miniaturized biomimetic projectors in underwater sonar, medical ultrasonography, and other ultrasonic imaging applications.