If you've ever seen a humpback whale's fins, you might have noticed that they have knobby bits along the front edge. These are known as tubercles, and they cause the water to flow over the fins in such a way that extra lift is created. They've been copied in efforts to produce better wind turbines
, undersea turbines
, helicopter rotor blades
... and now, Speedo swim fins.
Ask anyone who keeps freshwater tropical fish to name the top five most exotic, bizarre fish available to hobbyists, and chances are the black ghost knife fish will be in there. Besides looking incredibly cool, these Amazon basin creatures have two rather unusual characteristics: they can sense all around themselves by generating a weak electrical field, and they can move in any direction, thanks to an undulating ribbon-like fin that runs along the length of their underside. In an effort to replicate that form of maneuverability for use in man-made submersibles, a team led by Northwestern University mechanical and biomedical engineer Dr. Malcolm MacIver has created the GhostBot – an underwater robot that moves via a knife fish-like fin.
According to Gerhard Tevini from Krunk Surfing in Austria, surfers know the scenario all too well – the fins of your surfboard have to be screwed off when traveling or on the way to the waves. You hear the surf conditions are ideal so you race to the beach only to discover that you can’t find your screwdriver to attach your fins. Everyone else is in the water enjoying the best surf in a long time while you sit on the beach. So Tevini – with his engineering background – set about creating the Krunk Fin System (KFS), a tool-less system for attaching fins to a board.
March 21, 2008 It seems despite man's endless ingenuity and the incredible modeling power available to inventors through CAD systems, we keep looking to nature to find ever more effective ways of doing things. Millions of years of evolution's trial and error approach have resulted in some incredibly effective designs that are ready to be incorporated into human constructions if we can only identify, understand and replicate them. The random-looking bumps on the humpback whale's flippers have just inspired a breakthrough in aerodynamic
design that seems likely to dramatically increase the efficiency and performance of wind turbines
, fans, flippers and even wings and airfoils. WhalePower's tubercle technology seems like nothing less than a revolution in fluid dynamics.
Bridgestone has developed a rubber fin for a dolphin that lost most of its tail fin to disease. The beneficiary of the technology is Fuji, a 235-kilogram 2.7 metre female at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Fuji has regained nearly all of her swimming ability since receiving the new fin in what is believed to be the first-ever successful development of an artificial fin for a dolphin. Fuji has been in the Aquarium for 28 years, and the oldest of her three offspring, Ryu, 26 years of age, is the Japanese record holder for dolphin lifespan completely under human care. Fuji contracted the disease that caused progressive deterioration of her tail fin from the edge in October 2002. Amputating most of the fin saved Fuji’s life but left her unable to swim well. Volunteers at Bridgestone went to work on the rubber fin for Fuji in December 2002 and the company subsequently assembled a project team to tap the full range of Bridgestone’s rubber technology. The team delivered its first prototype in September 2003 and followed up with a second prototype the next month. A few years down the track and Fuji is fully recovered - that's her getting airborne, complete with her artificial fin.