Faster ships could be on the horizon after KAIST scientists develop a slippery surface inspired by fish and seaweed to reduce the hull's drag through the water.
Long-distance cargo ships lose a significant amount of energy due to fluid friction. Looking to the drag reduction mechanisms employed by aquatic life can provide inspiration on how to improve efficiency.
Fish and seaweed secrete a layer of mucus to create a slippery surface, reducing their friction as they travel through water. A potential way to mimic this is by creating lubricant-infused surfaces covered with cavities. As the cavities are continuously filled with the lubricant, a layer is formed over the surface.
Though this method has previously been shown to work, reducing drag by up to 18%, the underlying physics is not fully understood. KAIST researchers in collaboration with a team of researchers from POSTECH conducted simulations of this process to help explain the effects, and their findings were published in the journal Physics of Fluids on September 15.
The group looked at the average speed of a cargo ship with realistic material properties and simulated how it behaves under various lubrication setups. Specifically, they monitored the effects of the open area of the lubricant-filled cavities, as well as the thickness of the cavity lids.
They found that for larger open areas, the lubricant spreads more than it does with smaller open areas, leading to a slipperier surface. On the other hand, the lid thickness does not have much of an effect on the slip, though a thicker lid does create a thicker lubricant buildup layer.
Professor Emeritus Hyung Jin Sung from the KAIST Department of Mechanical Engineering who led this study said, “Our investigation of the hydrodynamics of a lubricant layer and how it results in drag reduction with a slippery surface in a basic configuration has provided significant insight into the benefits of a lubricant-infused surface.”
Now that they have worked on optimizing the lubricant secretion design, the authors hope it can be implemented in real-life marine vehicles.
“If the present design parameters are adopted, the drag reduction rate will increase significantly,” Professor Sung added.
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea.
Materials provided by American Institute of Physics.
Kim, Seung Joong, et al. (2020). A lubricant-infused slip surface for drag reduction. Physics of Fluids. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0018460
Hyung Jin Sung
Flow Control Lab. (FCL)
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Daejeon, Republic of Korea