In 2001, materials scientist Dr. Anthony Brennan observed that Galapagos Sharks are barnacle and algae-free due to the micro-topography of their skin. These diamond pattern nanoridges also make it difficult for bacteria — including antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” — to attach and survive. With that in mind, Brennan’s company reproduced the antibacterial texture as a film that could be applied to high-touch surfaces like hospital doorknobs, buttons, and handrails. (It seems like an excellent idea for public transportation, too.)
Biomimicry, the process of observing nature and then designing materials, structures, and systems based on that observation, is a great way to innovate and solve problems like this one. This is Using Shark Skin to Fight Against Bacteria, another smart episode from Wired’s Think Like a Tree series, narrated by biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus.
ICYMI: What can we learn from the oak trees that survived Hurricane Katrina? Plus, more sharks, more about health, and more biomimicry videos on this site.