MIT Engineers Developing Beaver-Inspired Wetsuits

Posted on October 12, 2016

Furry rubber wetsuit at MIT

Researchers at MIT are developing beaver-like wetsuits. MIT engineers have fabricated fur-like rubbery pelts with hairs. Beavers stay warm and dry even when diving underwater because air gets trapped by the hair in their fur. The researchers are testing hair length on the rubbery pelts to determine the best designs for different needs.

Anette (Peko) Hosoi, a professor of mechanical engineering and associate head of the department at MIT, says in a statement, "We are particularly interested in wetsuits for surfing, where the athlete moves frequently between air and water environments. We can control the length, spacing, and arrangement of hairs, which allows us to design textures to match certain dive speeds and maximize the wetsuit's dry region."

To make hairy surfaces in rubbery, the scientists first made several molds by laser-cutting thousands of tiny holes in small acrylic blocks. Study lead author and graduate student Alice Nasto used a software program to alter the size and spacing of individual hairs. She then filled the molds with a soft casting rubber called PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane), and pulled the hairy surfaces out of the mold after they had been cured.

A research paper on the technology was published here in the journal, Physical Review Fluids. Here is a video about the furry wetsuits:



Photo: Felice Frankel