For the longest time I believed a sharkskin suit was actually made from sharkskin. What did I know? I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I eventually figured it out. Sharkskin does show up in textiles often as a point of inspiration or as a piece of nature that design is trying to imitate.
The previous ‘sharkskin’ in textiles, besides making the rat pack look really cool, was the mimicking of sharkskin in speedo swimsuits that lasted for 10 years until the I.O.C. decided that the technology was giving unfair advantage to less prosperous participants and Michael Phelps had broken too many records. The fabric in this suit mimicked the way shark scales hold water and decrease drag.
Yesterday I caught a story on the CBS morning news by David Pogue about yet another shark skin technology called Sharklet. Sharklet was an invention derived from an observation biomedical engineer Tony Brennan made about the growth of barnacles in the ocean.
What Mr. Brennan of Sharklet observed is that Barnacles grow on ship’s hulls and on whales but not on sharks. Nothing grows on the skin of a shark. Closer examination of the shark skin revealed a micro pattern of gridded diamonds with intersecting lines. His suspicion was that this pattern disrupted the barnacle’s ability to attach to the shark’s skin so he duplicated the pattern on a plastic film to apply to the ship’s hull.
This surface effectively made it impossible for the barnacles to attach to the ship’s hulls. Next they began to consider how bacteria would react to the surface. When put to the test, they had similar results, and now have a surface treatment that is bacteria resistant without chemical treatments.
Instead of killing the bacteria with bleach on a continual basis, which kills the weak ones and lets the strong survive, the shark skin like surface makes an inhospitable surface for bacteria to colonize. This will make the medical industry very happy.
Check out Sharklet