Saturday, May 17, 2008

Humpback Whale Designs

The Christian Science Monitor reported Thursday on a nature-inspired development.

When biologist Frank Fish spied a figurine of a humpback whale in a Boston gift shop and noticed the pointy bumps along its fins, he said, "That has to be wrong."

Photo credit: WhalePower

But when the shop manager produced a photograph that showed the leading edge of the long fins was indeed serrated like the teeth on a saw, Dr. Fish was intrigued and decided to investigate.

He discovered that these bumps, called tubercles, are this creature's secret weapon, allowing a whale the size of a school bus to make tight turns and capture prey with astonishing agility.

Fish, a biology professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is now using this technology perfected by nature to produce fans with serrated blades that use 20 percent less electricity than traditional models. This finding contradicts conventional designs that strive for the smoothest possible edges.

Photo credit: WhalePower

Fish teamed up with a Canadian businessman to form WhalePower, a Toronto-based company that markets the technology. Envira-North Systems, Canada's largest supplier of industrial ceiling fans, with 75 percent of the market, recently licensed the design for a new line of fans that measure up to 24 feet in diameter.

"There was a 20 percent drop in energy use, a significant drop in noise decibels, and overall distribution of air was more even," says Envira-North CEO Monica Bowden. The increased efficiency also means the new fans will have five blades instead of 10, making them cheaper to manufacture.

I love stuff like this. The only bad part is that we have to wait until we can buy whale fans of our own.

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