Competitive Swimming: The Application of New Drag Reduction Technology The idea for riblets derives from nature, where they appear on sharkskin and scallop shells. Studies have investigated sharkskin replica to understand how riblets reduce wall shear stress. In the shark, riblets direct the flow of water and cause it to spiral off the shark’s body, decreasing drag and turbulence. Riblets are microscopic grooves a few thousandths of an inch wide, inscribed on the surface to reduce drag. In order to reduce drag, Olympic swimmers are wearing high-tech swimsuits that make use of “riblets.” Humans have already begun to use them in aerodynamics such as airplane surfaces. Estimates suggest that riblets on commercial airplanes could reduce total drag by 3%, and might, with further research, account for as much as 20% drag reduction. On high-performance jets, such as stealth bombers, the wings and fuselages are inscribed with riblets to decrease drag, allowing the plane a slight performance edge. Since drag and fuel
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