When this sculpture of a desert scorpion (above) was placed at the "D" gates of Las Vegas McCarran Airport in 2007, few saw the connection to aviation. Now Chinese researchers at Jilin University in Changchun have spelled it out in a paper titled Erosion Resistance of Bionic Functional Surfaces Inspired from Desert Scorpions, published in the journal Langmuir. Over eons, the surface of the scorpion's back has evolved to a complex pattern of bumps and grooves that deflects sand blowing across the desert. The Chinese team used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to predict whether adapting nature's pattern of "microtextures" could reduce the stress on aviation parts from high-velocity grit. It turns out that "the method can significantly improve the erosion resistance of various components," such as rocket motor tail nozzles, helicopter rotors, and turbine blades.
Photo: Courtesy McCarran Airport