The Salvinia Effect and Biomimicry

The Salvinia Effect and Biomimicry
Salvinia molesta – Salvinia Effect

Scientists have made many helpful discoveries by observing things in nature. Everything from airplane wings to Velcro originated by imitating something observed in the natural world. The name of this process is biomimicry, and an example is the salvinia effect.

Salvinia is a genus of ferns that float on the water. This plant has a layer of microscopic hairs that grow from a single shaft. The four hairs from the single shaft are connected at the tips, giving them a shape that resembles an eggbeater. The hairs and the leaf surface repel water (hydrophobic), but the tips of the hairs attract water (hydrophilic). This traps a layer of air on the leaf’s surface, eliminating any drag or pull the water might have on the leaves. This stabilized air layer on a surface submerged in water is known as the salvinia effect.

The salvinia effect opens new opportunities for biomimicry. Aircoat Project, funded by the European Union, has developed a synthetic coating that mimics this effect. Imagine the money saved if a coating for a ship’s hull could reduce drag by 30-40%, saving fuel. This coating could also reduce ship noise, which is detrimental to aquatic species such as porpoises. In effect, the ship would be floating on a very thin layer of air.

In biomimicry, such as the salvinia effect, we learn from what God has already created and find ways to apply that knowledge to solve some of our problems. Because there are so many examples of specialized and highly sophisticated design in the world around us, the future looks bright if we preserve God’s gifts and learn from them.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Motortrend Magazine, August 2023, page 22, and Wikipedia