Researchers at the University of California, (UC) Davis have developed a textured surface design that can improve the friction coefficient of soil-structure interfaces.
Trade-offs exist between several different technologies used currently in construction design/management. Geo-membranes that are impermeable to fluids and leachates are often used in landfills and other applications. However, many of these materials may introduce weak interfaces that increase the risk of slides and failure during normal and extreme conditions (e.g. earthquakes). The construction industry has thus identified a need for materials/surface textures that combine various properties related to structural support, relatively low cost, impermeability, and ease of installation.
The surface design developed at UC Davis was inspired by analyzing the scales - and their characteristics - found on the skin of a snake. This surface texturing design includes asperities that offers a highly-desirable combination of performance characteristics. The bio-inspired surface mobilizes a large coefficient of friction that increases when installed perpendicular to the likely direction of soil movement. This characteristic offers much more stability to soil-structure interfaces. The asperities on the textured design can alter their geometry to increase friction, and thus strength, against soil loads.