MIT researchers found a great source of inspiration in furry aquatic mammals such as otters and beavers. They decided to create a special wetsuit based on a similar mechanism as that of these animals protecting themselves against cold water. Thanks to this new invention, people will be able to swim in freezing water without feeling the cold.
The secret of some aquatic mammals lies in their fur. As beavers and otters lack fat to keep them warm, they have their fur to protect them against cold temperature. The thick coat captures warm air and keeps it there so that the animals shouldn’t feel the cold.
Experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology tried to copy this remarkable defense mechanism. They created a synthetic material which imitates the way in which natural fur captured warm air. They also expect that this material should be used for designing a special wetsuit meant to protect people from the cold water.
In order to create the material, researchers had to analyze the way in which hairs work on furry aquatic mammals. They found that there are two kinds of hairs which can help them. They also used digital technology to analyze the features and structure of the hairs, as well as developing similar synthetic models.
During their study, researchers also observed that animals like otters and beavers also tend to dive quickly. They are light because they don’t have massive resources of fat. This also makes them agile, which is something frequent with small animals.
The researchers in charge of the study explain that a special wetsuit is quite revolutionary, especially if compared to the existing technology. There are heavy and bulky suits for divers which reduce their speed. Moreover, there is no suit that can protect them against low temperatures. If the patterns of the aquatic mammals’ fur are followed, humans might dive as easy as these animals.
This is one of the many occasions when humans tend to copy models which are already present in nature. Specialists explain that robots which fly or swim were also inspired by the animals in the wild. Now, for the special wetsuits, experts take into consideration the thickness of the fur of aquatic mammals and the way it keeps them warm in the cold season.
The team of researchers published an article on their findings in Physical Review Fluids.
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