Anisotropic frictional properties of snake skin

Published on July 1, 2015

Skin surface on the ventral surface of snakes is optimized for legless locomotion in the course of evolution. This frictional system was investigated using microtribological technique to gain a deepened insight in the specialized surface modifications of the snake skin.

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In our studies, we have shown that the frictional properties of snake skin are highly optimized to generate frictional anisotropy and to reduce the occurrence of stick-slip motion during sliding. Despite this a strong influence of the effective elastic modulus of underlying layers on the frictional properties in general and the anisotropic frictional properties in particular was shown. We assumed, that snakes are able to alter frictional properties of their ventral body surface by the variation of body stiffness and thereby their effective elastic modulus. These results show that the snake skin is a very attractive biological model for optimizing technical surfaces under tribological stress.

Gorb Group | Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Germany

Stanislav Gorb is Professor for Functional Morphology and Biomechanics at the Zoological Institute at the Kiel University, Germany. His research interests include biological attachment, evolution of structure and functions, biotribology, biomimetics, and animal-plant interactions.

Martina Baum is Post-Doc at the department of Functional Nanomaterials at the Institute for Materials Science, Faculty of Engineering at the Kiel University, Germany. She did her PhD on frictional properties of snake and snake-inspired microstructured polymer surfaces. Her current research is focused on the development of an environment-friendly polymeric coating with antifouling effect for maritime constructions.

Baum, M. J., Kovalev, A. E., Michels, J., & Gorb, S. N.: “Anisotropic Friction of the Ventral Scales in the Snake ‘Lampropeltis getula californiae’.” Tribology Letters 2014, 54(2),139-150, DOI: 10.1007/s11249-014-0319-y.

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