In the 70’s did the paleontologist Dr. Reif a research on shark scales and discovered that especially fast swimmers like the king of the sharks – the Shortfin mako shark – or the silky shark show a very individual scale-surface structure. Due to the perfect adaptation of their habitat are these sharks capable of reaching a maximum speed of up to 90 or 60 km/h. But as Dr. Reif found out their skin respectively scale is not plane and smooth but a fluted.
In collaboration with the fluid dynamics engineer Dr. Bechert was the shark scale structure rebuilt ,tested in the wind and water tunnel and later on in a baby oil filled water tunnel. The outcome of the research is the so called riblet effect. The riblet effect takes place as the riplet peaks come in contact with turbulences in current and fluid flows rearranging the flow. This process reduces the aerodynamic or aquatic resistance.
The discovery has been used by various industrial branches. The first to make use of it was the aircraft industry in the 90’s they produced a foil with a riblet surface. The foil reduced the drag coefficient value allowing a reduction of fuel consumption on long distance flights of two to three percent. But due to the high costs and the arduous installation was the implementation restrained to the airbus A380.
In 2000 has the riblet effect entered the Olympic stage. Australian and US American athletes were the first to compete in so called “Fast-skin” suits produced by the English company Speedo.
Other fields of use are ships protecting the hulk from fouling ( Antifouling ) or the inlayer of tubes and pumps.
Concluding did the shark provide us with a riblet effect that can be highly rewarding for technological innovations.