Professor Hosoi’s second incident with engineering and animals happened during a visit to a wetsuit manufacturing facility, who were looking for a solution to help athlete surfers remain warm yet agile, as current options were bulky and impeded mobility.
Professor Hosoi got together with a graduate student called Alice, who had done some research into how semiaquatic mammals like beavers, otters and fur seals stay warm while maintaining their agility. Their fur traps air between the hairs which insulate these creatures keeping them warm without the need for a thick layer of blubber.
Alice created a silicone model of beaver fur. She tested different fur lengths and densities and immersed the samples in water to study which one trapped the most air and would therefore keep the wearer warm yet mobile. Through this Professor Hosoi and her student learned about the beaver’s special ability or superpower and developed a material that could lead to the creation of a bio-inspired athletic wetsuit.