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Scorpions inspire scientists in making tougher surfaces for machinery

January 25, 2012

Taking inspiration from the yellow fattail scorpion, which uses a bionic shield to protect itself against scratches from desert sandstorms, scientists have developed a new way to protect the moving parts of machinery from wear and tear. A report on the research appears in ACS' journal Langmuir.

Zhiwu Han, Junqiu Zhang, Wen Li and colleagues explain that "solid particle erosion" is one of the important reasons for material damage or equipment failure. It causes millions of dollars of damage each year to helicopter rotors, rocket motor nozzles, turbine blades, pipes and other mechanical parts. The damage occurs when particles of dirt, grit and other hard material in the air, water or other fluids strike the surfaces of those parts. Filters can help remove the particles but must be replaced or cleaned, while harder, erosion-resistant materials cost more to develop and make. In an effort to develop better erosion-resistant surfaces, Han and Li's group sought the secrets of the yellow fattail scorpion for the first time. The scorpion evolved to survive the abrasive power of harsh sandstorms.

They studied the bumps and grooves on the scorpions' backs, scanning the creatures with a 3-D laser device and developing a computer program that modeled the flow of sand-laden air over the scorpions. The team used the model in computer simulations to develop actual patterned surfaces to test which patterns perform best. At the same time, the erosion tests were conducted in the simple erosion wind tunnel for groove surface bionic samples at various impact conditions. Their results showed that a series of small grooves at a 30-degree angle to the flowing gas or liquid give steel surfaces the best protection from erosion.
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Erosion: Changing Earth's Surface (Amazing Science)
by Robin Koontz (Author), Matthew Harrad (Illustrator)

Did you know that rain, waves, wind, snow, and ice can change the shape of Earth’s surface? They can create valleys, sea stacks, caves, and rock arches. Learn about the natural forces of erosion and how they shape the land. View Details


Weathering and Erosion (Science Readers: Content and Literacy)
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The Earth's surface is always changing. Learn how weathering and erosion constantly reshapes the earth through wind, water, and more! Even people can drastically change the earth's surface. With the help of easy-to-read text and bright, colorful images, this reader simplifies challenging scientific topics while keeping students engaged from cover to cover. This reader also includes instructions for an engaging science activity where students can see what happens when land erodes. A helpful glossary and index are also included for additional support. View Details


Cracking Up: A Story About Erosion (Science Works)
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Describes the process of erosion and how water, ice, wind, and sun wear away at Earth's surface. View Details


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Earth is changing every day as a result of erosion, and weather plays a major part. View Details


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Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough... View Details


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Looks at the processes of weathering, erosion, and deposition, and how they affect plant and animal life. View Details


Erosion (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets)
by Jorie Graham (Author)


From Erosion:

SAN SEPOLCRO




Jorie Graham
?


. . . . How clean

the mind is,

holy grave. It is this girl

by Piero

della Francesca, unbuttoning

her blue dress,

her mantle of weather,

to go into

labor. Come, we can go in.

It is before

the birth of god. No-one

has risen yet

to the museums, to the assembly

line bodies

and wings to the open air

market. This is

what the living do: go in.

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Discusses the different causes of erosion and weathering, how these phenomena create problems for people, and their role in the rock cycle. View Details


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