Although organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects the evolutionary implications of these laws are often neglected. Physical factors influence the fitness value of traits and play an important role in the course of evolution. These are the areas of investigation that interest us.
Manufacturing textured, flexible surfaces can be difficult, but researchers are exploring ways to use fluid dynamical instabilities to make the process easier. They begin with a pourable polymer mixture that cures and solidifies over time. By putting the mixture on a cylinder and rotating it, engineers trigger the Rayleigh-Taylor instability - the same instability that makes dense fluids sink into lighter ones. Here, the instability is driven not only by gravity but by the added acceleration caused by centrifugal force. It causes the fluid film to drain and form arrays of droplets, which then cure into dimples. The researchers can control the size, shape, and spacing of the droplets by changing parameters like the spin rate. And by repeating the process multiple times on the same piece, they can build up spikier shapes, like the ones shown on the poster below. (Image and research credit: J. Marthelot et al., poster)