Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny hydrophobic water ferns could help ships economize on fuel

Date:
May 5, 2010
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
The hairs on the surface of water ferns could allow ships to have a 10 percent decrease in fuel consumption. The plant has the rare ability to put on a gauzy skirt of air under water. Researchers now show how the fern does this. Their results can possibly be used for the construction of new kinds of hulls with reduced friction.

Materials based on water ferns could reduce the fuel consumption of ships in a big way.
Credit: iStockphoto/Rafael Ramirez Lee

The hairs on the surface of water ferns could allow ships to have a 10 percent decrease in fuel consumption. The plant has the rare ability to put on a gauzy skirt of air under water. Researchers at the University of Bonn, Rostock and Karlsruhe now show in the journal Advanced Materials how the fern does this. Their results can possibly be used for the construction of new kinds of hulls with reduced friction.

Related Articles


The water fern salvinia molesta is extremely hydrophobic. If it is submerged and subsequently pulled out the liquid immediately drips off it. After that it is completely dry again. Or to be more precise: it was never really wet. For the fern surrounds itself by a flimsy skirt of air. This layer prevents the plant from coming into contact with liquid. And that even with a dive lasting weeks.

Materials researchers call this behaviour 'superhydrophobic'. This property is of interest for many applications such as rapidly drying swimsuits or simply for fuel-efficient ships. Meanwhile, it is possible to construct superhydrophobic surfaces modelled on nature. However, these 'replicas' have a disadvantage: the layer that forms on them is too unstable. In moving water it disappears after several hours at the latest.

The researchers from Bonn, Rostock und Karlsruhe have now deciphered the trick the water fern uses to pin down its airy skirt. It has been known for some years now that on the surface of its leaves there are tiny whisk-like hairs. These are hydrophobic. They keep water in the surroundings at a distance.

Water is 'stapled in place'

But this is only one side of the coin: "We were able to show that the outermost tips of these whisks are hydrophilic, i.e. they love water," Professor Wilhelm Barthlott from the University of Bonn explains. "They plunge into the surrounding liquid and basically staple the water to the plant at regular intervals. The air layer situated beneath it can therefore not escape so easily."

Professor Barthlott is head of the Nees Institute of Biodiversity of Plants in Bonn. There the experiments began which are continued today in conjunction with the Chair of Fluid Dynamics at the University of Rostock and the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Karlsruhe. "After the solving of the self-cleansing of the lotus leaf twenty years ago, the discovery of the salvinia effect is one of the most important new discoveries in bionics," Professor Thomas Schimmel from the University of Karlsruhe says.

Fuel saved world wide: one percent

And it is one with huge technical potential to boot. Up to now with container ships more than half of the propulsion energy is lost through friction of the water at the hull. With an air layer this loss could be reduced by ten percent according to the researchers' estimate. Since ships are huge fuel guzzlers, the total effect would be enormous. "Probably one percent of the fuel consumption worldwide could be saved this way," is Professor Barthlott's prognosis. "Surfaces modelled on the water fern could revolutionise shipbuilding," Professor Dr. Alfred Leder from the University of Rostock concurs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wilhelm Barthlott, Thomas Schimmel, Sabine Wiersch, Kerstin Koch, Martin Brede, Matthias Barczewski, Stefan Walheim, Aaron Weis, Anke Kaltenmaier, Alfred Leder, Holger F. Bohn. The Salvinia Paradox: Superhydrophobic Surfaces with Hydrophilic Pins for Air Retention Under Water. Advanced Materials, 2010; DOI: 10.1002/adma.200904411

Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "Tiny hydrophobic water ferns could help ships economize on fuel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095104.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2010, May 5). Tiny hydrophobic water ferns could help ships economize on fuel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095104.htm
University of Bonn. "Tiny hydrophobic water ferns could help ships economize on fuel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095104.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins