Water Repellent Ocean Insects Could Lead To Slipperier Ships!

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Scientists are now working on a hull coating that would allow ships to more easily slide through the water, while also preventing the colonization of drag-producing organisms, says an article published in New Atlas.

Hydrodynamic ship hulls

The “sea skater” is one of the few insects that lives full-time in a marine environment. According to a research that was recently published, scientists are now taking a closer look at how the animal repels water, to develop more hydrodynamic ship hulls.

About the Sea Strider

  • Similar to freshwater water strider, the sea strider can skitter around on thin legs that rest on the water’s surface. 
  • They are good at staying dry even when pelted by rain and waves, and at surfacing quickly after being submerged.

Study on how they remain dry?

Working with an American colleague, researchers at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) set out to get a better understanding of how the insect excels at shrugging off liquid. 

Captured two sea skater species 

In order to do so, they captured two sea skater species – the open ocean-dwelling Halobates germanus and the coastal H. hayanus – which they kept in aquariums.

Body with hairs

Utilizing techniques such as electron microscopy, the scientists discovered that the skaters’ bodies were covered with hairs of different shapes and sizes. The smallest of these were shaped like golf clubs, with the heads of the clubs tightly packed together on top, and the shafts a little more widely spaced underneath.

Layer of air around the body

This design keeps water from getting past the club heads, resulting in a layer of air being trapped around the insect’s body. Even when the sea skaters were pushed underwater, the buoyancy of that layer caused them to pop right back to the surface. 

Secretion of wax

Additionally, it was observed that when grooming themselves, the insects secrete and cover their bodies with a highly water-repellent wax.

Hull coating to tackle these insects

Inspired by both the hairs and the wax, the scientists are now working on a hull coating that would allow ships to more easily slide through the water, while also preventing the colonization of drag-producing organisms such as barnacles.

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Source: New Atlas

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