Friday, May 16, 2014


As designers of swimsuits are aware, the key to sharks swimming so efficiently through the water are the tooth-like scales on their skin called denticles. Organismal and evolutionary biologist George Lauder and his colleagues at Harvard University scanned a square of skin from a mako shark and from it built a model of a single denticle. They 3D-printed thousands of them, at 10 times their size, embedded in a flexible membrane. They were then able to scientifically study the skin and found that it creates turbulence, which reduces drag like the dimples on a golf ball. But they were also able to show that the denticles alter specific currents that actually help propel the shark through the water. Important to a fish with no swim bladder that has to swim constantly, the texture was found to boost swimming speed by an amazing 6.6%. The application of this detailed replication of shark skin to the fabric industry may take another 10 years, but Lauder comments, "It pays us to understand how the natural world works. Millions of years of evolution give us solutions to problems that we may not have thought of."

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.