Published on 11/10/2022
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Aston University mathematicians to investigate if fish slime could lead to faster, more efficient vehicles
  • Fish who secrete slime could hold key to making vehicles more efficient
  • New mathematical models will be based on their drag reduction 
  • Potential to contribute to a cut in vehicles’ CO2 emissions.

Slime secreted by predator-avoiding fish could hold the key to making vehicles more efficient and cheaper to run. 

Mathematicians at Aston University are developing computational modelling techniques to examine how nature tackles the resistance, or drag, experienced by a body while it is moving through air or water. 

As part of this project the experts will establish new mathematical models of biological drag reduction techniques, such as those used by fish who secrete slime to make a quick get away from predators.

A major contributing factor to worldwide fuel consumption is skin-friction drag, which is drag caused by the friction of a fluid or gas against the surface of an object that is moving through it. As a result this project has the potential to contribute to a reduction in CO2 emissions created by vehicles including cars, ships and planes. 

A reduction in drag could also increase the performance range of electric vehicles, making them more attractive to car buyers.

The project, Utilising a Naturally Occurring Drag Reduction Method, is led by Dr Paul Griffiths, senior lecturer in applied mathematics in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. He said: 

“At present, one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions stems directly from the burning of fossil fuels for transportation purposes. Maritime transport alone emits annually around 940 million tonnes of CO2.

“Turbulent flows play a significant role in reducing fuel efficiency and, in the case of fossil-fuel burning engines, have an associated impact in increasing harmful CO2 emissions.

“The goal of this project is to develop mathematical techniques that can be used to model the control of such flows with a specific focus on the ability to delay the onset of turbulent transition.

“It is an exciting time for me and my group to join Aston University, we are very much looking forward to contributing to the innovative fluid mechanics research that takes place here.

“This research is part of Aston University’s growing digital agenda, recognising the importance of computational modelling and simulation to the rapid advancements in all areas of technology. Computational approaches are transforming how the world operates.” 

The project is funded by ESPRC and will last 24 months. Once the initial project is complete the team hopes to work with industry partners to put their theoretical findings into practice.

Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston University is a long-established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University is ranked 22 in the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Nicola Jones, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7825 342091 or email:

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