In the modern world, people are slowly shifting from the over-reliance on artificial resources to the over-reliance on nature and its resources to come up with inventions and innovations (Benyus, 1998). This aspect is widely known as biomimicry, and it means that the developed innovations and inventions mimic how various aspects and resources of nature operate (Benyus, 2009). An example of innovation that has been derived from nature’s operations is the sharkskin swimsuit. This innovation is greatly used in the world today in activities and events that have to deal with something or someone coming into contact with water. It is argued that sharkskin constitutes myriads of overlapping scales commonly known as dermal denticles. There are grooves that run down the denticles and they align with the flow of water. The grooves are of significance because of their disruption of eddies formed when the shark moves in water. The grooves also give sharks the ability to disrupt turbulent swirls of slower water, and through this, water passes by faster, and this makes the movement of sharks in water easier. Another characteristic of sharkskin is that is rough, and this helps prevent the growth of parasitic organism such as barnacles and algae, which could jeopardize the survival of the sharks, and this is one of the underlining factors behind its use in modern innovations.
As mentioned earlier, a modern innovation derived from the sharkskin is the sharkskin swimsuit. Scientists came up with the sharkskin swimsuit, which was introduced to the sports industry in the early 21st century (Ming-kang, 2009). In the Olympics competitions of 2008, the sharkskin swimsuit was used by Michael Phelps in the swimming event. In fact, it can be recalled that the sharkskin swimsuit innovation was attracted attention from all corners. To some extent, Michael Phelps’ success in the swimming event is owed to the innovation. Phelps went ahead to win the competition, and his fast movement in water was facilitated by the fact that the swimsuit could disrupt the eddies formed in water. After, the 2008 Olympics, swimsuits are no longer accepted in today’s global swimming competitions.
There have been concerns and questions about why scientists came up with the sharkskin swimsuit, and why it was worn by Michael Phelps in the swimming competition in the 2008 Olympics. First, speed is essential for swimming competitions. To achieve this objective, eddies that might delay movement in water should be disrupted and the sharkskin swimsuit innovation helps in the accomplishment of this goal. Moreover, the sharkskin swimsuit innovation enables the disruption of turbulent swirls of slow water, and this makes water pass by faster thus making the movement in water easier. However, in swimming competitions today, swimsuits that rely on the sharkskin innovation have been banned, and this is one of the major setbacks that the evolution of the sharkskin innovation faces (Miah, 2008).
Apart from the swimsuit innovation, scientists have relied on the shark skin to develop several other innovations. For instance, making of boats greatly relies on sharkskin. It is put at the bottom of boats, and the fact that it disrupts the formation of eddies makes the movement of boats in water easier. Also, through the disruption of turbulent swirls of slower water, water passes by faster, and this fastens the movement of boats in water (Takagi & Sanders, 2000). The building of cargo ships also relies greatly on the sharkskin. It is out at the bottom and sides of the cargo ships, and thus, disrupts the formation of eddies, which ends up making it easier for the ships to navigate through water. The advantage of this innovation on ships is that it increases efficiency, and as a result, less oil is burnt to facilitate the movement of the cargo ships. the other advantage of the sharkskin on ships is that it is put on the hulls, and thus prevents bacterial growth. Therefore, chemicals are not required for the cleaning of the cargo ship hulls. This is owed to the roughness of the sharkskin surface that makes it hard for substances such as bacteria to grow on the hulls of the cargo ships.
The sharkskin innovation is also applied in modern day hospitals. Scientists have come up with various inventions in hospitals such as table surfaces, floors, and walls that rely on the sharkskin. As a result, the surfaces have the capability of resisting bacterial growth that could worsen the situation of patients in hospitals. The resistance of bacterial growth on surfaces in hospitals is owed to the fact that bacteria and other parasitic growths cannot hold onto surfaces made up of the sharkskin innovation, which continues to evolve. The innovation has also been used in the manufacture of water skiing equipment, and this is owed to the fact that sharkskin technology makes movement in water easier (Takagi & Sanders, 2000). Scientists continue to work around the clock to come up with several other technologies that rely on sharkskin innovation, and most of the technologies are water related.
Benyus, J. M. (1998). Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by nature. New York: Quill/Morrow.
Benyus, J. M. (2009). Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by nature. New York: HarperCollins.
Miah, A. (2008). Enhanced Athletes: It’s Only Natural. Washington Post.
Ming-kang, W. U. (2009). Application and development of the imitation shark skin swimsuits. Progress in Textile Science & Technology, 2, 90-91.
Takagi, H. & Sanders, R. (2000). Hydrodynamics makes a splash. Physics World, 13(9), 39-43.