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Urban myth disproved: Fingerprints do not improve grip friction
Date:6/11/2009

al to the contact area between the two surfaces.

To check that skin behaves more like rubber than a normal solid, the duo varied the area of each fingerpad that came into contact with the surface by dragging narrow and wide strips of Perspex along Warman's fingerpads. They found that the friction did increase as more of the fingerprint came in contact with the surface, so the skin was behaving just like rubber.

Finally, the friction issue was clinched when Warman measured his fingerprints' surface area. The area of skin in contact with the Perspex was always 33% less than if the fingerpads were smooth resulting in the maximum contact area. Fingerprints definitely don't improve a grip's friction because they reduce our skin's contact with objects that we hold, and even seem to loosen our grip in some circumstances.

So if fingerprints don't tighten our grasp on smooth surfaces, what are they for? Ennos explains that our fingerprints may function in other ways. They might have evolved to grip onto rough surfaces, like tree bark; the ridges may allow our skin to stretch and deform more easily, protecting it from damage; or they may allow water trapped between our finger pads and the surface to drain away and improve surface contact in wet conditions. Other researchers have suggested that the ridges could increase our fingerpads' touch sensitivity. Whatever our fingerprints are for, it seems that the idea that they provide friction for grip is just another urban myth.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-122-342-5525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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