Humpback Whale Inspires New Wind Turbine Design

Humpback_whale_img_assist_custom A new design for wind turbine blades was inspired by a whale and a work of art.

T. Goodman at reports:

“Frank Fish (yes, it’s his real name), whose field just happens to be biomechanics, actually came about his observations of the humpback whale serendipitously when he saw a sculpture of a humpback with what he thought were misplaced tubercles on the whale’s flipper.

The artist had placed them on the “leading” edge of the flipper, not on the underside of the flipper, where Fish “knew” they should be because of his study of fluid dynamics (i.e, smooth edges are most aerodynamic). The artist was correct, however, and Fish’s further research indicated that at least part of the science of fluid dynamics was wrong. The tubercle placement on the humpback whale’s flippers and tail is a major part of the reason the great mammal is so aerodynamic.

This tubercle design operationally keeps air attached to the blades, thereby managing the flow of air and increasing the lift of the blade — two areas of concern in the development of wind turbines.”

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Published: July 20, 2009