A new study on eyelash aerodynamics revealed that eyelashes do not only enhance the looks of a person but they also protect the eye from infections and keep it moist. The study was conducted on more than 20 mammals, but researchers claim that the findings are relevant to humans as well.
Scientists found that a certain length of one’s lashes can diminish the evaporation of the eye by up to 50 percent. Eyelashes also cut to half the microscopic debris and airborne bacteria that try to reach the surface of the eye.
The new study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
After reviewing the findings, the team of researchers argued that its findings may explain why people with no or few eyelashes are affected more by eye infections than people who hold a normal set of lashes.
“People think eyelashes are cute. But they’re actually protecting us from a lot of extra illness,”
explained David Hu, lead author of the eyelash study and researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Mr. Hu also said that he was inspired to start the new research by his newborn baby girl’s astonishing eyelashes. Such a minor detail has driven him to find the final purpose of human lashes by checking the animals that are equipped with eyelashes.
For their research, scientists first measured the eyelashes found on 22 mammal pelts at the NYC American Museum of Natural History. To their surprise, researchers found that nearly all animal eyelashes were one-third of their eye’s width. They also checked previous data on human lashes and learned that humans follow the rule of thirds, too.
On a second phase of the research, the team designed a dish-sized artificial eye protected by an artificial set of eyelashes, while exposing the “eye” to the airflow provided by a small desktop fan.
Soon afterward, scientists calculated the evaporation rate and amount of water that was evaporating from the artificial eye, as well as the amount of tiny debris that made it onto the surface of the eye.
Scientists learned that the optimal eyelash length to keep to a minimum the evaporation and bacteria contamination was one-third the size of the eye. Surprisingly, longer eyelashes were not better at preventing water from evaporating; they actually funneled more air toward the eye’s surface.
The team suggested that their discovery may have even practical applications such as equipping solar panels with eyelash-like protections that could keep dust and other particles from depositing onto their surface.
Image Source: Ecouterre