01/25/2012 04:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Scorpion Shells Patterned To Prevent Erosion

A super-hard ridge pattern inspired by scorpions takes the sting out of erosion in a new paper published in the American Chemical Society journal, Langmuir. A group of scientists, looking to create a material that prevents the sort of erosion that happens to helicopter blades, fans and turrets, found an effective geometric patten modeled after the hard shells of certain scorpions.

Yellow fattail scorpions, whose bodies are adapted to desert environments, don't get beaten up by sandstorms nearly as much as other species would. This makes them the perfect model for experimental efforts to prevent damage from the impacts of many tiny particles.

According to the abstract of the paper, by Han Zhiwu et al.,

"Results showed that the desert scorpions used special microtextures such as bumps and grooves to construct the functional surfaces to achieve the erosion resistance...The result demonstrated that the microtextured surfaces exhibited better erosion resistance than the smooth surfaces."

The team used advanced computational modeling techniques to simulate the fluid movement of small particles, and came up with a deceptively simple result. According to a written statement, "Their results showed that a series of small grooves at a 30-degree angle to the flowing gas or liquid give steel surfaces the best protection from erosion."

Look closely at the image below; you can see the outline of a scorpion's body and legs. The ridged parts of the shell are blue and the flat parts are white, and the intricate rippling pattern can be clearly noticed.

The technology may be able to be applied to all sorts of things that spin or speed, although don't expect to see ceiling fans with tiny scales any time soon.

Click below to see more examples of 'biomimicry,' or applied biological adaptations.

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