Surfer alert! Shark bite-resistant wetsuit one step closer to reality
In February, Kieno Kammies spoke to one of the Australian researchers working on developing a shark bite-resistant wetsuit.
Since then, they have been busy conducting trials to test different combinations of new fabrics to incorporate into the standard Neoprene the suits are currently made of.
And results are promising says Professor Charlie Huveneers, head of the Southern Shark Ecology Group (SSEG) research lab at Flinders University in Adelaide.
It's a kind of puncture-proof fabric with an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene.Charlie Huveneers, Head - Southern Shark Ecology Group research lab at Flinders University
How did researchers actually test the fabrics to find the most protective combination during the trials?
Huveneers says the materials were lab-tested for the amount of force required to puncture them and their ability to withstand cuts, compared to Neoprene.
Then the experiment moved into the field, using wild sharks in marine parks for the ultimate bite test.
There was a reduced number of punctures but also size of punctures and level of penetration with the new fabric compared to the Neoprene.Charlie Huveneers, Head - Southern Shark Ecology Group research lab at Flinders University
He emphasizes that the new fabric will not prevent any bone breakages or internal injuries
What it's meant to do is to reduce tissue damage or muscle or skin injuries.Charlie Huveneers, Head - Southern Shark Ecology Group research lab at Flinders University
Keep in mind that the most severe bites or fatalities are not due to bone fracture but to blood loss. We can reduce the severity of the wound which means that we can reduce blood loss, which will also hopefully mean that we can reduce the likelihood of dying from a shark bite.Charlie Huveneers, Head - Southern Shark Ecology Group research lab at Flinders University
Huveneers could not give a time frame for the incorporation of the new fabric into wetsuits but says the manufacturers they're working with are "very keen" to try and commercialise it as soon as possible.
Listen to the audio below for more on the trials:
Image credit: Flinders University
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