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Shape shades and enhances heat radiation: cactus

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Peruvian torch cactus (Echinopsis peruviana) / Paul Benford / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Cacti stay cool by having ribs that provide shade and enhance heat radiation.

BIOMIMICRY TAXONOMY
Summary
"The same applies to the intricate structural designs of cacti, which are exposed to a great deal of heat pressure in the desert. Their heat-reflecting capacity is low, since their surface is greatly reduced so as to cut down on evaporation. Nature has solved the problem by equipping many cacti with cooling ribs. These shade the cactus's surface against the scorching sun and simultaneously improve heat radiation. The alternating planes of light and shade of the vertical cooling ribs of the torch thistle produce rising and falling air currents, which improve heat radiation. And when the sun reaches its highest position, it hits the torch thistle from above, where it presents its smallest surface. A botanist discovered that torch thistles perish of burns when they are placed horizontally in the sun." (Tributsch 1984: 136)


Mechanism for cooling in torch cactus. Artist: Emily Harrington. Copyright: All rights reserved. See gallery for details.

About the inspiring organism
Cactaceae
Cactaceae

Learn more at EOL.org
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist


Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Building construction that keeps buildings cool.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction

References
Tributsch, H. 1984. How life learned to live. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 218 p.
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Comments

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Sherry
over 3 years ago
Thanks to Emily Harrington for providing the illustration showing the biological principle.
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tanialevy
over 3 years ago
This comment was removed by a AskNature editor for the following reason:
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Sherry
over 6 years ago
Hi, Check the gallery tab for some photos. I think the species referred to is the torch cactus.
Sherry
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This is really interesting to note. I'd really like to see more picutres of the thistles, and vertical ribs, even more a schematic CFD study about a transverse plane would be cool. So much to learn.
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kevin
over 6 years ago
post a reply here
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