Man-made skin helped reveal the secret of sharks' high speed

Sharks are known not only as bloodthirsty predators. Scientists have long been interested in their unique maneuverability and speed of movement under water. A group of biologists at Harvard University led by George Lauder was able to study some of the features of shark skin.

To do this, they printed a copy of it on a 3D printer. A fragment of Macho shark skin was used as a sample. At first glance, the perfectly smooth skin of a shark is actually a living web of microscopic teeth, which, when moving, minimize water resistance.

3D printed shark skin

It took over a year to make the artificial leather. In addition to a 3D printer, an electron microscope and a membrane balance had to be used.

During the experiment, the artificial skin was attached to a flexible foil, which was used to simulate the movements of shark fins in a tank with running water.

At a low water flow rate, the resistance of the fins with the shark skin was 8, 7% less than that of the "naked" fins. But as soon as the flow rate was increased and the fins were immobilized, the picture changed. This time, the shark's fins slowed down 15% more. In the next step, the scientists gave them a movement similar to that of a shark, at a speed of one and a half strokes per second. Result: driving speed increased by 6, 6%, and energy consumption decreased by almost 6%.

Researchers are currently studying how changing the location of the teeth affects the speed of movement in the water. However, one should not count on the imminent appearance of “shark” swimsuits on sale, since their manufacture is still a very expensive pleasure.