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Research Highlights

SNU and LG Electronics Develop Fan Imitating Humpback Whale and Clam

  • December 1, 2015
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Technology Inspired By Nature

A research team led by Professor CHOI Hae Chun (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Seoul National University) collaborated with LG Electronics to develop an air conditioner fan with low noise and high efficiency by imitating biological characteristics of humpback whales and clams. Their brainchild was officially announced on November 5th, and the product was applied in LG Electronics’ latest outdoor air conditioner system - ‘Multi V Super 5’.

The eco-friendly issues prevalent in modern society encouraged researchers to develop more efficient air conditioner fans compared to current fans that are louder and have a more complicating airflow. As per these appeals, the research teams gained inspiration from the agilities of humpback whales and clams for the design of the fan. Despite their massive body size and weight, humpback whales are able to hunt with relatively high speed due to unique lumps located on their pectoral fins. Furthermore, furrow structures on a clam’s shell surface enables them to escape from predators quickly. These two characteristics are embedded onto the surface of the fan, reducing the fan noise by two decibels (dba) and consuming 10% less electrical energy.

Lumps on the fins of humpback whales and furrow structures on clams embedded into the design of the fan surface
Lumps on the fins of humpback whales and furrow structures on clams embedded
into the design of the fan surface

This invention is also significant as an example of a successful academic-industrial cooperation. Professor Choi Hae Chun acknowledged the support for industry-university research as the key to such success - “With the help of the Research Launching Business, supported by the Ministry of Science, ICP and Future Planning, we have many original biologically imitated technologies; and we were able to successfully apply these technologies in the actual industrial field through this particular industry-university research.”

As scientific philosopher, Christopher Potter, states in his book How To Make A Human Being, “Humans were never part of nature. We were always part of technology,” the common conception is that the juggernaut of technological advancements estranges human relation with nature. However, it is also an inexorable truth that nature and technology continually enhance each other in powerfully positive ways. The invention of this new air conditioner fan exemplifies this symbiotic relationship between nature and technology.

Professor Choi’s research team aspires to be the best in the field of biological imitation in technology, such as in fluid machineries and unmanned aerial vehicles.


Written by Hye Bin Lee, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies,

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