Shark drysuit material could help save lives

A new wetsuit material tested by marine researchers at Flinders with great white sharks from the Neptune Islands. Credit: Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers, Flinders University

A new wetsuit material tested by marine researchers at Flinders can help reduce blood loss from shark bites, reduce injuries and prevent the leading cause of shark bite death.

The study published in PLOS ONE tested two types of protective fabrics that incorporate ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibers on a neoprene material widely used in wetsuits, and compared their puncture resistance against standard neoprene without protective layers.

Flinders University Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers of the Southern Shark Ecology Group says new advances in fabric technology have enabled the development of lightweight alternatives that can be incorporated into traditional wetsuits.

“The aim of this study was to assess the ability of new tissues incorporated into neoprene to reduce injuries caused by white shark bites,” explains Professor Assoc Huveneers.

“Our results showed that both tissues tested may offer some protection against shark bites and could be used as part of a shark bite mitigation strategy.”

“We tested the fabric on white sharks as it is the species responsible for the highest number of shark bite deaths.”

The tests included 10 variations of two different tissues using two lab tests, puncture and laceration tests, as well as field tests involving white sharks ranging in size 3-4m.







A new wetsuit material being tested by marine researchers from Flinders at the Neptune Islands Group Marine Park. Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers tests with white sharks using load sensors placed between steel plates with foam. Credit: Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers

The bite force of the white shark was also measured at the Neptune Islands Group Marine Park using load sensors placed between steel plates surrounded by foam.

“We found that the new fabrics were more resistant to punctures, lacerations and bites from white sharks than standard neoprene.”

“More force was required to pierce the new tissue compared to the control tissue (lab tests), and the cuts made on the new tissue were smaller and shallower than those in the standard neoprene of both types of test, that is, that is, laboratory and field tests.

Prof Huveneers says the results are positive but more testing is needed in an integrated wetsuit design and on the potential damage to human flesh underneath for more robust recommendations.

“While these tissues may reduce blood loss resulting from a shark bite, more research is needed to measure the extent of damage to human flesh.”


Australian researchers test shark-bite-resistant suit


Provided by Flinders University

Quote: Shark Dry Suit Material Could Help Save Lives (November 18, 2019, retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2019-11-shark-proof-wetsuit-material.html

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