To design the wings of new planes some scientists think of copying the fins of a species of humpback whale.
|Even whales have two or three things to teach aeronautical engineers.|
Where to look for inspiration to draw the wings of new planes? Clear, at the bottom of the sea.
Researchers at West Chester University in Pennsylvania have found a curious inspiration by observing - and studying - the fins of gibbous whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), a species known for the delicious sounds it emits to communicate, as well as for the spectacular flights it makes coming out of the water.
Its fins are equipped with a strip of cocoons called tubercles between which the water creates a series of reels and turbulences that favor the lift and reduce the resistance of the water.
Marine gymnasts. So the whales are able to perform quick changes of direction, fast 180-degree turns and other striking movements that surprise the observer. By studying these reels, Frank Fish came up with the idea of building a 57 centimeter whale fin model and studying it in the wind tunnel.
He has thus discovered that the wings with that profile are much more efficient than those of the planes which, as is well known, are smooth. Wings designed in this way may not need flaps and other mechanisms that serve to increase the lift capacity of aircraft during landing. All with less risk of mechanical breakdowns usually responsible for aircraft accidents. Or at least emergency landings.
(News updated May 19, 2004)