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What sandblasted scorpions can teach aircraft engineers

File:Androctonus australis 02.JPG
Androctonus australis

This one’s for Gil Dodgen:

In “Not a scratch: Scorpions may have lessons to teach aircraft designers” (February 4, 2012), The Economist reports,

The north African desert scorpion, Androctonus australis, is a hardy creature. Most animals that live in deserts dig burrows to protect themselves from the sand-laden wind. Not Androctonus. It usually toughs things out at the surface. Yet when the sand whips by at speeds that would strip paint away from steel, the scorpion is able to scurry off without apparent damage. Han Zhiwu of Jilin University, in China, and his colleagues wondered why.

So he bought a number of scorpions in Shanghai pet shops.

And had a look at their armour plates. (The stuff some people will do for science … ) Anyway,

The team found that Androctonus armour is covered with dome-shaped granules that are 10 microns high and between 25 and 80 microns across. These, they suspected, were the key to its insouciance in the face of sandstorms.

A computer model suggested that the erosion was reduced to about half this way. Then they tried aiming sand grains at steel in a wind tunnel.

The upshot was that the pattern most resembling scorpion armour—with grooves that were 2mm apart, 5mm wide and 4mm high—proved best able to withstand the assault.

Not as good but still better. Han Zhiwu’s advice for aircraft designers is that the right sort of rough surface may be better, overall, than a smooth surface.

If nature is unintelligently designed, how come it has so much to teach us?

Hat tip: AITSE Newsletter

The scorpion 'armor' insight for aircraft, reminds me of these advances from shark skin:
Shark Skin Inspires Ship Coating Excerpt: The coating doesn't go anywhere near the engines -- it will be applied on the hull of ships below the waterline, where all manner of algae, barnacles and other wee beasties attach themselves, slowing ships and reducing their maneuverability.,,, Sharks don't have algae or barnacle problems despite being underwater all their lives. Shark skin is made up of tiny rectangular scales topped with even smaller spines or bristles. This makes shark skin rough to the touch. This irregular surface makes it difficult for plant spores to get a good grip and grow into algae or other plants. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2005/03/66833 Shark Skin As Antibiotic Excerpt: New technologies developed after studying shark skin will soon be appearing at a hospital near you. Scientists at Sharklet Technologies, a Florida-based biotech company, have been studying shark skin for the interesting fact that bacteria just doesn’t seen to stick to it. Under the microscope, it appears that shark skin is composed of diamond-shaped bumps that give it this unique property. Hospital tests using plastic tubing (as used in intravenous lines and catheters) printed with this shark skin pattern showed that microorganisms which can cause potentially serious harm, such as E. coli and Staphylococcus Aureus, were unable to establish colonies large enough to infect humans. http://dailydose.righthealth.com/health-care/shark-skin-as-antibiotic/
OT: Dinosaurs had fleas too -- giant ones, fossils show - February 29, 2012 Excerpt: New fossils found in China are evidence of the oldest fleas - from 125 million to 165 million years ago,,,, Scientists figure about eight or more of today's fleas would fit on the burly back of their ancient ancestor. "That's a beast," said study co-author Michael Engel, entomology curator,, "It was a big critter. I can't even imagine coming home and finding my miniature schnauzer with one or more of these things crawling around on it." The ancient female fleas were close to twice the size of the males, researchers found, which fits with modern fleas. http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-02-blood-sucking-mega-fleas-stalked-earth.html bornagain77

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