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How Smart Morphable Surfaces Work


When you're cold, you don't have to tell your skin "it's time to get goose bumps." It knows what to do based on the conditions it's facing. Smorphs work the same way.
When you're cold, you don't have to tell your skin "it's time to get goose bumps." It knows what to do based on the conditions it's facing. Smorphs work the same way.
Oleksii Sergieiev/ThinkStock

The next time you look down and see cellulite on your thighs, don't despair: Those dimples could actually be making you faster and more aerodynamic.

No, we're not kidding. Once you learn about smart morphable surfaces, you may find that your corporeal cottage cheese is something worth celebrating. You'll also learn that getting your car dented in a hailstorm might be good for your fuel economy — at least in some driving situations. However, before you start celebrating the dents in your car or your skin, you need to know how smart morphable surfaces work.

Smart morphable surfaces, or smorphs, are surfaces that change in response to the conditions around and inside them. Your skin is sort of like a smorph. If conditions inside your skin change, like if you gain weight, your skin changes with it. Start hitting the Doritos too hard, for example, and your belly will grow. The good news is, unlike your jeans, your skin will grow with it. If you've ever been pregnant or seen a pregnant woman's tummy, you know that your skin can stretch taught and tight over a growing body part. When that body part shrinks from having a baby or trading Doritos for carrot sticks, the skin will usually shrink back down as well.

Of course, our skin doesn't always shrink back down perfectly. After a big weight loss, we can have loose skin and stretch marks. Skin doesn't only respond to conditions inside the body though. Spend too long in the tub, and you'll get wrinkly fingers. Head outside naked on a cold day, and you'll get goose bumps (as well as a citation, since public nudity is illegal in most places). Smorphs are sort-of like skin in that they aren't always smooth and sleek, and they can respond to conditions inside and outside of the body. In some cases, the dimples in a smorph can improve aerodynamics and fuel economy for cars. If only your stretch marks could do the same. Keep reading to learn how the car you might drive in the future could have a shape-shifting skin that's dimpled one minute and smooth the next — and it all depends on driving conditions.


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