Shark-skin surfaces for fluid-drag reduction in turbulent flow: a review

Brian Dean, Bharat Bhushan


The skin of fast-swimming sharks exhibits riblet structures aligned in the direction of flow that are known to reduce skin friction drag in the turbulent-flow regime. Structures have been fabricated for study and application that replicate and improve upon the natural shape of the shark-skin riblets, providing a maximum drag reduction of nearly 10 per cent. Mechanisms of fluid drag in turbulent flow and riblet-drag reduction theories from experiment and simulation are discussed. A review of riblet-performance studies is given, and optimal riblet geometries are defined. A survey of studies experimenting with riblet-topped shark-scale replicas is also given. A method for selecting optimal riblet dimensions based on fluid-flow characteristics is detailed, and current manufacturing techniques are outlined. Due to the presence of small amounts of mucus on the skin of a shark, it is expected that the localized application of hydrophobic materials will alter the flow field around the riblets in some way beneficial to the goals of increased drag reduction.


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