Creating material that mimics dolphin skin
1 July 2011
Researchers from Imperial and UCL are planning to develop a new material that mimics dolphin skin to help water flow more easily along pipes.
A new material could reduce the amount of energy used to pump huge volumes of water through vast networks of water pipes; a necessity in arid countries such as Australia and Libya, which rely on vast pipeline networks to transport water to areas where it is scarce.
The resistance between pipe walls and flowing water causes friction, which means that huge amounts of energy have to be used to pump a large volume of water to its destination. To address this, Dr Michael Templeton (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Dr Andrew Wills, from the Department of Chemistry at UCL, aim to mimic the chemical properties and microscopic physical structure of some of the most slippery surfaces in nature to develop a new friction-reducing material.
One of the surfaces that the researchers are exploring is dolphin skin. Chemicals combine with tiny bumps on the animal’s skin to reduce the friction between it and the water through which it is swimming. Similarly, the new material could have nanoscopic bumps to control water flow, allowing the water to run more easily over its surface. It could also be coated with water-repellent chemicals to reduce the friction between the water particles and the pipes’ surface.
The work is one of seven early-stage projects supported by the Kick-Start scheme, which aims to advance engineering research and promote collaborations between Imperial and UCL.
— Colin Smith, Communications and Development
Tags: Chemical Biology, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
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