The video above shows how scientists at MIT responded when approached by wetsuit manufacturers looking to develop a warmer, but still highly flexible, wetsuit for surfers. They thought that small, agile creatures—like beavers and sea otters—who manage to remain warm in frigid water without carrying restricting layers of blubber might have an answer.
And they were right. The secret turned out to be the way that their unique fur traps air bubbles, which then serve as insulation. Ultimately, the scientists were able to derive a mathematical formula breaking down the various factors that make the fur so effective. The hope is that warmer wetsuit materials—and also much lighter and more flexible than the current neoprene rubber—can be produced using MIT’s formula as a recipe.
MIT Professor Anette (Peok) Hosoi suggests in the video that it’s a test case of sorts, and an early example of new, purpose-built textiles made possible by advances in science and manufacturing.