Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Shipping engineers are looking to fish and seaweed for new strategies to reduce fluid friction and help cargo ships slide through the ocean water.
To reduce drag, fish and seaweed secrete lubricants that form a slippery layer, helping their bodies move efficiently through the ocean.
Researchers suggest cargo ships could use a similar strategy by deploying lubricant-infused surfaces marked with cavities. By continuously filling the cavities with lubricant, a slippery layer is formed over the surface of the ship's hull.
The strategy has been tested before, with success, but until now, researchers had not characterized the physics that make the fluid friction-reduction strategy work.
For the new study, published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids, developed a model to simulate performance of different materials, lubricants and cavity designs.
The simulations showed lubricants spread more quickly when the open area of the cavities are larger. Simulations also showed the thickness of the cavity lids had little effect on the formation of the lubricant layer.
"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," senior study author Hyung Jin Sung, mechanical engineer at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, said in a news release.
In followup studies, researchers plan to test different lubricant setups on real life marine vessels.
"If the present design parameters are adopted, the drag reduction rate will increase significantly," Sung said.
By reducing drag, ships could reduce fuel consumption and speed up shipping times.