back to article Boffins 3D-print biomimetic shark skin

Scientists from Harvard University have used 3D printing to reveal just how sharks lower their energy consumption in a cruise thanks to miniature teeth-like "denticles" on their skin. Sharks are coated with million of these "overlapping tooth-like scales", known to reduce drag, but until George Lauder, James Weaver and Li Wen …

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JDX
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Simpler way to test

Get two sharks. Sandpaper one of them.

Getting volunteers to sandpaper a shark (obviously using wet'n'dry) might be tricky though.

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Re: Simpler way to test

Sharks are sandpaper.

Or were. Shagreen is seldom used outside Asian cutlery and sticklers for traditional wood carving anymore.

Besides, everybody knows you shouldn't rub sandpaper of two different kinds together. Doing so can cause adhesive failure in one, or both, of the backing materials as well as contravening about 270 Canadian laws.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simpler way to test

"Getting volunteers to sandpaper a shark" Sharkskin was once used as an abrasive, so you could rub down one shark with another.

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Joke

Re: Simpler way to test

"... you could rub down one shark with another."

Doesn't that just makes a third shark?

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Paris Hilton

It's not clear to me where the laser mounting points are on this synthetic shark skin?

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I read somewhere there's a strap-on configuration for the suit.

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Trollface

This is just a prototype. The next version will also mate with Velcro, so you'll get infinitely customizable hardpoints...!

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Evolution ...

... is there anything it can't do?!

Well, actually, yeah there are a few things. But it still never ceases to amaze me especially when you see it coming up with things like this...

(and, of course, I am referring to the thing they are trying to copy rather than the - admittedly also very clever - thing that the researchers came up with)

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Boffin

Surprised they didn't get better results actually

Mind you, their synthetic one - though technically an impressive achievement - may not be anywhere near as good as the real thing.

As for the bit about swimsuits - weren't certain types of full-body suits with fancy drag-reducing textured surfaces banned for Olympic competition? I don't imagine you'd get away with biomimetic shark skin either. Though for divers it would be great to be able to reduce exertion.

Interesting note - try stroking a shark front-to-back, and it's slick smooth. Try it back-to-front, and the denticles make it rougher than the most grippy sandpaper you've ever known (and I'm comparing it to the super-grippy stuff they paint on the top of Chinooks to help mechanics not slip off). Even sharks without obvious teeth tend to have an enlarged form of these denticles inside the mouth, which can mean if one is even big enough to latch onto a finger, you're not getting that finger back.

Now let's also not ignore the fact that directed surface friction is a useful commodity in itself. Though today's particular lesson is: don't rub a shark up the wrong way.

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Re: Surprised they didn't get better results actually

A long time ago, as part of a spa/massage experience, I was rubbed down by a lady who wore a genuine sharkskin glove. It really was like a fine but grippy abrasive paper and suprisingly pleasant. By that stage, my body had been pummeled to jelly and I was too relaxed to care about anything.

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Pint

Re: Surprised they didn't get better results actually

> ".. today's particular lesson is: don't rub a shark up the wrong way."

Bravo, sir!

Have a virtual ale.

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JDX
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I was rubbed down by a lady who wore a genuine sharkskin glove

Kinky

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Re: I was rubbed down by a lady who wore a genuine sharkskin glove

Yes, but no mention of a "happy ending". Could be rather sore with a shark skin glove cum to think of it.

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Biometric Shark Skin

At first I was confused about why anyone would want to create a biometric shark skin. I'm not aware of any facilities that allow entry exclusively sharks and I'm absolutely certain nobody is going to question a shark who presents a credit card for a purchase or a passport at border crossings; any credit card or passport. Other thoughts will be occupying 100% of their mental capacity.

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Anonymous Coward

Scientists spend money discovering already known facts?

We already knew what the denticles on shark skin do.

Who the fuck funds this stuff? If they're giving money away for old rope, I've got some investments for them. Fuck for the right amount I'm even willing to cut up sharks, and make swim suits out of their skin.

What next? Will they fund making a really soft fluffy fibered parachute so paratchutists can attempt to be as silent as an owl?

There are people starving in the world and the best we can do is piss away time and money on demonstrating something we already know, is what we already know it to be.

(They say men get grumpier as they get older... is it any surprise when we come to realise just what a fucking mess the world (human part of it anyway) is)

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Re: Scientists spend money discovering already known facts?

The point of this, well points i can think of in about 2 seconds, is:

1) We now have a way to actually CREATE "sharkskin" so now we have a way to use the knowledge that sharkskin is quicker in water... This can be used to make boats more efficient, dive suits that are quicker, surfboards that are quicker...

2) We now have a way to actually measure just how good sharkskin is - i.e. we know it is quicker than not having it but HOW MUCH quicker - should we do all of the things in point 1? yes, yes - it's not as good as real sharkskin but then neither was V1 sharkskin i don't imagine

3) we can now MAKE laser wearing sharks rather than trying to train them - not sure about you but i don't fancy trying to train a shark to shoot the right thing with a laser - it will probably think i am the right thing to shoot based on the fact i caught it and strapped a laser to it's head.

Think thats it for now - anyone else care to add to this list?

Cheers

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Silver badge

Re: Scientists spend money discovering already known facts?

" If they're giving money away for old rope"

'Old rope' was sections of rope that had beeen used for a hanging.

Sold by the hangman, proces varied depending on who the hangee was and the hanger was.

Oh, and if this world is a mess - it's OUR mess, we made it so stop grumbling.

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Re: Scientists spend money discovering already known facts?

quote: "We already knew what the denticles on shark skin do."

What this did, which had not been done previously, was quantify the exact effects of specific denticle shape and placement.

from the article: Lauder enthused: "This is the first time that anyone has measured the energetic cost of shark skin and the reduction in swimming cost relative to a smooth surface."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Scientists spend money discovering already known facts?

What this did, which had not been done previously, was quantify the exact effects of specific denticle shape and placement.

I'm fairly sure anybody with skills in fluid dynamics could have calculated that in a lab, I even suspect someone probably already had.

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M7S
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From the archives (2009)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8022000/8022077.stm

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Re: From the archives (2009)

Also, I think it was the Big Bang (BBC) that did a test against the US swimmer Phelps and the presenter was in a shark skin body stocking thing. This was also quite a few years ago.

Where's the shark with a fricking laser icon ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: From the archives (2009)

That won't count, nothing can be truly invented until an American invents it... it's a law or something over there.

These videos won't represent prior art when the USPTO get hold of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_yspfQPSVg

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Re: From the archives (2009)

And debunked later on:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/02/a-swimsuit-like-shark-skin-not-so-fast/

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Cue the Next Controversy

shark-skin olympic swimsuits, anyone?

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Thumb Up

Re: Cue the Next Controversy

they were already banned in swimming, as someone pointed out above. The Adidas swim suits apparently increased the buoyancy of the swimmers and had a direct effect on performance.

Sharks wear theirs all the time....

P.

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Silver badge

Re: Cue the Next Controversy

See my post above, they make no difference that can't be gained by an ill fitting one. Most good swimmers (females at least) wear swimsuits that are way to small for them...

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Re: Cue the Next Controversy

You're gonna need a bigger 3-D printer.

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Really?

Surely you would use real shark skin to have a control substance, then you could compare against what you've manufactured to see if really does mimic the same properties? For all we know, sharks might be 20% more efficient than a smooth surface.

Maybe not all sharks are the same - different patterns, groupings on different parts of the body? I'm no marine biologist, but I'm sure these are valid questions?

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Re: Really?

I'm no professional biologist either, but I imagine there are only so many experiments you can do with a fresh, supple bit of genuine shark skin without causing problems for its occupant.

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My son is a rower. With the Junior Nationals just a week away in Nottingham, I see a request coming in to coat his boat with it.

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I'm also a rower. Unfortunately, any external substance that alters the hull/water boundary layer (eg denticles) is banned.

Hey ho. Just have to pull harder.

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Anonymous Coward

Similar work done on Bumble bees

The denticles on shark skin are similar in action to the fibers on a bumble bee exoskeleton. Technically, a bumble bee should not be able to fly but it can.

Both appear to help create a "boundry layer" of fluid between the creature's body and the water or air serving to make the creature slide through the media easier or more efficiently; by reducing overall friction and turbulence.

They are different fluids (air or water) but the idea is the same, fluid slips against fluid instead of directly against the skin.

This boundry layer idea has been used in submarines for some time now. A flexible surface is applied to the steel and it absorbs the turbulence, making it more efficient. That discovery was also an observation of nature as the skin being emulated is that of a dolphin.

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JDX
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Re: Technically, a bumble bee should not be able to fly but it can.

That's utterly untrue

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Boffin

*extremely* regular teeth

Which may be a factor in the relatively small improvement.

But let's keep in mind it's about 6% faster x6% less energy.

together those features may multiply to give a shark with them a significant survival advantage over other sharks.

Who would be quite pathetic by comparison.

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Mushroom

Y'all aren't thinking big enough

Imagine, if you will, that this technology is able to scale up to, say, be able to be applied to a cargo ship or supertanker. If they can get the propulsion optimized to spec, a 10%+ improvement in efficiency (and translated bunker fuel costs) ain't nuthin to sneeze at.

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The Olympics is supposed to be about who can swim fastest, not who can afford the best swimsuit. Nothing for it, ban swimsuits. Lots of other benefits as well as ensuring fair competition.

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