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Written by: Jane Li
Written on: March 21st, 2017
Tags: biomedical engineering, health & medicine, lifestyle, material science, mechanical engineering, water, physics
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Jane is an animal-loving sophomore studying Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation in the Iovine and Young Academy at USC.
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Volume XVIII Issue I > From Shark Skin to Speed
However, even with such success, experts such as George Lauder, a professor of ichthyology (the study of fish) at Harvard, claim that sharkskin suits do not actually reduce drag [13]. According to Lauder, shark skin only reduces drag when attached to a flexible surface [13]. Human bodies are much less flexible than those of sharks, so a sharkskin swimsuit does not benefit a human swimmer in terms of drag reduction [13]. Therefore, while Speedo originally modeled the Fastskin line after shark skin, evidence suggests that its success is simply a byproduct of experimentation, not due to the similarity to shark skin.


Ever since the term “biomimicry” emerged, scientists all over the world have intensely studied biological systems, experimented with new ideas, and attempted to create innovations molded from nature. In just this limited example, through the biomimicry of shark skin, scientists have created more efficient processes in transportation, medicine, and athletics. Biomimicry of other natural phenomena could inspire just as numerous and diverse engineering applications. Additionally, as Speedo’s Fastskin line suggests, biomimicry can lead to unexpected innovations and spinoff technologies that can succeed even if not adhering to strict biomimicry – promising that unexpected innovations and spinoffs from studies of biomimicry can also spark new ideas and affect the future for any field.


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