The department is very pleased that a newly published paper by CEE faculty member Elie Bou-Zeid along with MAE faculty member Howard Stone and MIT Technology Review contributor Conor L. Myhrvold is generating significant international media attention. The paper discusses how elephant hair works to help regulate the animal’s temperature in the hot climates elephants live. Scientists previously knew that elephants used a variety of behavioral techniques to keep cool, but it was not clear that such behaviors could entirely account for the elephants thermoregulation needs, given their large body mass compared to their skin area. This new paper demonstrates that elephant hair can facilitate heat loss anywhere between 5 to 20 percent, depending on wind speed. The researchers suggest that hairs act like pin fins, transporting heat away from the skin and releasing it more efficiently into the surrounding air, perhaps in a similar fashion to the way previous research suggests spines help cool plants such as cacti.
We encourage everyone to see the original paper, “What Is the Use of Elephant Hair?,” which can be found at the following link: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0047018
Also be sure to check out the MSNBC story covering this research at this link:
Another story on CNN:
And the School of Engineering article, written by SEAS staff writer John Sullivan: