14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry

By Amelia Hennighausen and Eric Roston - 2013-08-19T12:01:13Z

Photograph by Doug Cheeseman/Peter Arnold; Rendering by Envira-North Systems Ltd.

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Fin to the Wind

Humpback whales are surprisingly agile swimmers considering each beast weighs in at about 80,000 pounds. Part of their swimming prowess may come from a row of warty ridges, called tubercles, on the front edge of their fins. 

Frank Fish, biology professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, discovered that by adding rows of similar bumps to turbine blades he could reduce drag and noise, increase speed to changing wind direction and boost the power harnessed by 20 percent.

Fish developed the idea after he noticed bumps on a whale statue in a Boston gift shop. He assumed, incorrectly, that the artist got it wrong and that the bumps shouldn't go on the front edge of fins, which typically are straight and sharp.

The bumps are now being sold on industrial fans made by Envira-North Systems and on surfboards by Fluid Earth. 

A Dumb Question about biomimicry.

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