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Polar bear fur could hold secret to ultrathin insulation

Posted in Science on 3rd Feb, 2014 09:04 PM by AlexMuller

Put a polar bear and a biophotonics expert together in a chilly room and what do you get? Potentially, better insulation. When looking to uncover the secrets of the impressive insulation properties of polar bear fur, researchers found that radiation plays a larger role than conduction in the insulation of polar animals, such as penguins and polar bears.

It was previously thought that feathers and fur work to keep polar animals such as polar bears and penguins warm by trapping a layer of air that slows thermal conduction and loss of body heat. Instead biophotonics scientist Priscilla Simonis and her team found that heat loss between two bodies separated by air was more affected by radiation than by conduction.
Using computer models, the researchers showed how radiative shields, used to mimic individual hairs in a polar bear's fur, effectively backscattered heat.
Backscattering is the deflection of energy at an angle of up to 90 degrees from the source. This deflection was not only limited to the infrared spectrum, or heat, but also reflected visible light, helping in animal camouflage in the snowy conditions by making their coats look white (despite appearances, polar bear fur is actually pigment-free and transparent). By adding more shields (hairs) the loss of energy was greatly reduced.


Tags: bearfurinsulationheat

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Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-04
Very interesting work combining computer modelling and other experiments. We keep learning from designs of nature- another great example that could help save energy
2 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-04
Yes, this is a great discipline in science and a vibrant field! Biomimetics, the science of imitating nature, has whole departments at universities dedicated to this. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-04
This study may have a number of applications for humans and could lead to the development of new types of ultrathin insulation. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-04
I found that Velcro is a copy of nature. Coping the shape and radiation control of polar bear fur should be able to be done. Reply


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