Horsepower allows cars to move faster with more power. Fins allow surfers to maneuver their boards through the water. In the case of a plane crash, passengers evacuate onto the wing. Often, engineers mimic forces in nature to improve the way man-made objects function.
University of Alabama aerospace engineering professor Dr. Amy Lang received two grants from the National Science Foundation to research how the functions of shark and butterfly scales can translate to man-made solutions. Potential applications include more effective helicopter blades, higher quality sporting equipment and an improved fuel economy for cars. She calls this kind of research bio-inspired flow control.