Mechanical Engineering Research on Synthetic Film Featured in National Journal

Postdoctoral research associate Humberto Bocanegra and assistant professor Burak Aksak’s work on a coating inspired by the skin of sharks was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Flow Raider

Burak Aksak (top)
Luciano Castillo (left)
Humberto Bocanegra (right)

Humberto Bocanegra, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering at Texas Tech, and Burak Aksak, assistant professor in mechanical engineering, had their research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) today (Jan. 22).

The study, titled, “Engineered Bio-Inspired Coating for Passive Flow Control,” details five years of research into a synthetic film, inspired by the skin of sharks, that can be placed onto automobiles, ships and possibly aircrafts to make them more aerodynamically efficient.

“The study is basically the design of a surface in order to increase the efficiency of a particular vehicle or mechanism,” Bocanegra said. “It could be used for cars and trucks, or it could be used for wind turbines. We believe there are many potential applications, and this is what makes the technology more impactful.”

What makes this product so special is the way it’s designed.

“What is unique about this technology is that the increase in efficiency is not due to the material but rather the geometry of the micro-features on the surface,” Aksak said. “There is flexibility in the material choice and the surface application. It can be manufactured and applied as a film to a surface, or parts can be produced such that it automatically has the micro-features on it.”

Bocanegra and Aksak also worked on the study with Luciano Castillo, Kenninger professor of renewable energy and power systems in the school of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

Having their findings published in the PNAS is a major accomplishment for them.

“The PNAS is one of most esteemed journals in science and engineering,” Aksak said. “It’s one of the top journals in multiple-disciplinary research. It’s a rare feat to be published in the PNAS, specifically in engineering. When you’re published in the PNAS, your work gets a lot of recognition and visibility, which is very exciting.”

With their study published, Bocanegra and Aksak hope to further their research into this technology.

“We hope to test this technology in larger-scale field studies to prove its usefulness in many different applications,” Bocanegra said.

Bocanegra, Aksak and Castillo are currently participating in the Accelerator Program through Texas Tech’s Innovation Hub at Research Park.


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Whitacre College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.

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Department of
Mechanical Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is the largest in the Whitacre College of Engineering and is among the top U.S. universities in the awarding of mechanical engineering undergraduate degrees.

As a leading educator of industry-ready mechanical engineers, Texas Tech prepares mechanical engineering students and graduates who have a reputation of high academic skills in engineering, math and science. Industry employers report that Red Raider engineers have the strong work ethic and emotional intelligence necessary in today’s corporate environment and field atmosphere.