Researchers discover how bird feathers resist tearing

phys.org | 10/1/2018 | Staff
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Chinese researchers have discovered and characterized a sophisticated mechanism in bird feathers that enhances tear resistance, overturning a centuries-old explanation of how bird feathers work. The newly discovered cascaded slide-lock system is composed of flexible hooklets, a slide rail, and spines at the end of the slide rail as terminating structures.

This finding demonstrates that the high durability of bird feathers against tears derives from their cascaded slide-lock system, not from the "hook-groove system" proposed centuries ago. Results were published in PNAS in an article titled "Repairable cascaded slide-lock system endows bird feathers with tear-resistance and superdurability."

Bird - Feathers - Attention - Superdurability - Tears

Bird feathers have aroused tremendous attention for their superdurability against tears during long flights through wind and even bushes. Although feathers may inevitably be unzipped, the separated feather vanes can be repaired easily by bill stroking, which shows the strong advantage of feathered wings over the membrane wings of bats and butterflies. However, the mechanism underlying bird feather superdurability against tears had previously been unclear.

Since Hooke drafted the first rough model of feather structures in 1665, many efforts have been made to explore the structure and function of feathers. Microscale hooks and grooves have been observed and illustrated using optical and electron microscopy. Unfortunately, to date, the superdurability of feathers against tears has remained linked to the interlocking hook-and-groove model, which ignored the fine structures in feathers and could not adequately explain their superdurability.

Researchers - Technical

Researchers from the Technical...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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