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Shark biomimetics - drag reduction in sharks: beyond parallel riblets

Academic lead
Prof Jeff Peakall, Earth and Environment
Dr Alan Burns, Chemical and Process Engineering, Dr Tom Fletcher, Earth and Environment, Dr Gareth Keevil, Earth and Environment, Dr Rob Dorrell, Earth and Environment
Project themes
Environmental Flows, Industrial processes that require drag reduction

Sharks are highly efficient long-distance swimmers based on several hundred million years of evolution. Shark biomimetics (‘learning from nature’) offers the possibility of optimising drag reduction in other systems through understanding the fluid dynamics of such drag reduction in sharks. Much previous work has focused on riblets on sharks and in particular the optimal width of riblets as a function of speed, inspiration for numerous biomimetic applications, including swimsuits, and drag-reduction on planes and ships. However sharks have far more complex and diverse skins, which consist of scales and riblets, including far more complex riblets than those studied to date. Pioneering work in the Sorby Laboratory has demonstrated that many of these combinations dramatically reduce drag reduction in sharks, and that parallel riblets are only one of a number of mechanisms. This project will seek to understand the underlying fluid dynamic mechanisms behind drag reduction from shark scales, non-parallel riblets, and combinations of scales and riblets. The approach will be to utilise detailed high-resolution CFD models around model shark skin, in combination with detailed flow measurement (using state-of-the-art 3D Laser Doppler Anemometry) over model shark surfaces in the laboratory to better understand flow-surface-roughness efficiency.