Many people who do water sports, like surfing or diving, wear wetsuits to stay warm in cold water. But, most wetsuits today are heavy and thick, which can slow athletes down. Scientists at MIT want to design a wetsuit that is warm and easy to move in. They turned to nature for inspiration.
First, the scientists researched how seventy different aquatic mammals stay warm in the water. Many, like whales and walruses, have layers of fat that keep them warm. This is similar to how current wetsuits work. The scientists eventually turned to furry animals, like beavers, for their solution. Beavers have thick fur which traps warm air close to their bodies and insulates them in cold water while allowing them to move around freely.
The scientists took these important properties of beaver fur and used them to create a furry, rubber material. They pushed the material under water to see how it traps air. This gave them an idea of how warm a wetsuit made of this material would be. They also made sure the material was flexible. Their wetsuit design is still in the beginning stages, but the scientists are optimistic that this “furry wetsuit” will help surfers, divers, and other athletes stay warm while they enjoy water sports.
Click the image below to learn more about this design.
What would YOU design to keep people warm in cold water? Show us your ideas in the design section.