In 2000, Speedo introduced its new, fastest line of swimsuit: Fastskin. The inspiration was from sharks, as they are one of the fastest fish (50 km/h) with a unique texture and efficiency of their skin. The new style and material of the swimwear was designed to reduce the amount of water absorbed, reduce muscle vibration and drag imitating a shark’s skin with built in ridges.
In 2004, the swimwear company further developed the Fastskin line and launched FSII. The material was the combination of two fabrics to provide ease of movements and reduce passive drag by an additional 4%. The swimsuits again mimic sharks as the animal’s skin comprises of scales known as dermal denticles (“little skin teeth”), which conform to different flows. The scales also channel water more efficiently over the surface enhancing thrust.
During the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, more swimmers wore Speedo FSII than all the other swimsuit brands combined. Micheal Phelps, known as the fastest swimmer in the world, also wore FSII winning six gold medals.
However, after the introduction of Fastskin FSII some Harvard scientists compared the material to real shark skin particles. They found that the “flexible shark skin foils actually showed a substantial improvement in swimming performance…, the same treatments applied to a rigid (human) foil did not have the same effect” (). They suggest that theSpeedo material actually does not have any drag-reduction effect, which as for now is only seen in swimming sharks. However, the scientists also view that the skintight form of the material could have enhanced performance in other ways.
In conclusion, more research is needed in this area of biomimicry as humans try to mimic sharks’ skin to achieve higher swimming speed.