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High-tech 'Shark Skin' Unsuccessful at Accelerating Speed

by Nancy Needhima on July 29, 2012 at 2:56 PM
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High-tech 'Shark Skin' Unsuccessful at Accelerating Speed

Swimsuits crafted from shark skin, which may be appealing , sadly does not aid in better speed, claims a professor of Ichthyology.

According to George Lauder, suits are held too tightly to a person's skin, cancelling out any potential swimming benefits.

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Lauder is the author of an upcoming paper which found that high tech swimsuits has no effect on swimming speed

Sharks have a 'sandpaper' like skin, that allows them to swim faster and more efficiently through water, but Lauder points to suits such as the Speedo Fastskin II, and says it has no effect on humans - because a shark's skin is a bit more 'baggy'.
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Combined with the sandpaper bumps, it leads to a low-pressure area around the skin, allowing the animal to move more easily.

But wetsuits are tightly held against the skin - which removes the drag-reducing vortexes.

"It's nothing like shark skin at all," the Daily Mail quoted Lauder as saying.

"What we have shown conclusively is that the surface properties themselves, which the manufacturer has in the past claimed to be biomimetic, don't do anything for propulsion.

"What we found is that as the shark skin membrane moves, there is a separation of flow.

"You can imagine this low-pressure area as sucking you forward. The denticles enhance this leading-edge vortex. So my hypothesis is that these structures that make up shark skin reduce drag, but I also believe them to be thrust-enhancing," he said.

He said the phenomenon was only found when the skin was attached to a flexible membrane - and no increase in speed was seen when placed on a rigid structure.

"In life, sharks are very flexible. Even hammerheads and large ocean sharks are quite flexible," he said.

"If you watch a shark swim, the head does not move very much, so it could be that the denticles on the head are mostly reducing drag, but those on the tail are enhancing thrust.

"But we don't know what that balance may be. Ultimately, though, one of the key messages of this paper is that shark skin needs to be studied when they're moving, which hadn't been done before," Lauder added.

Source: ANI
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