Science has always been looking at nature to inspire new ways of tackling day-to-day issues and one company is exploring shark skin as a way to fight bacteria as well as methods to keep bio-films and barnacles off hulls of ships. Sharklet, a Colorado-based company, took inspiration from the rough surface of a shark’s skin noting that for such a slow moving marine animal is clean — no algae or other things growing on it.
A closer look at the skin of the animal gave the company the idea that the ridges on the skin inhibit bacteria and other things from finding the shark to be a suitable host. The company explored and developed ways for this technology to be mimicked and used in real-world applications — from bacteria resistant coatings for hospitals and public areas to coatings for hulls of ships to eliminate the use of toxic anti-fouling paint.
By creating a flexible sheet of this bacteria-inhibiting material, the applications for its use are endless. Fighting bacteria with anti-bacterial and germ killing substances is not the most logical method of fighting bacteria, especially considering the lifespan of most bacteria is around 15 minutes giving them plenty of time to adapt, evolve and mutate becoming potentially stronger, more resilient and dangerous. The Sharklet technology uses small ridges around 3 microns in height and the company feels bacteria have pressure sensing abilities and when it comes in contact with the ridges on the material they sense the material is not a good place to set up shop and take off for other areas.
So far the Sharklet technology has been installed in hospitals, on airplanes and in public restrooms, among plenty of other applications. The company has even been featured on the Discovery Science Channel’s “Brink” where they explain what the company is doing in a bit more detail. Unfortunely the video is hosted on the Discovery Channel site only so we can’t embed it here but make sure you do go watch the Sharklet episode of Brink there.