A team of researchers exploring the aerodynamics of flying snakes finds that whirls of wind, the little vortices surrounding it, give them an extra lift
Animal flight behavior is an exciting frontier for engineers to both apply knowledge of aerodynamics and to learn from nature's solutions to operating in the air. Flying snakes are particularly intriguing to researchers because they lack wings or any other features that remotely resemble flight apparatus.
Before you envision flying snakes raining down from the sky, the ones involved in this study are small -- about 1 meter in length and the width of your thumb -- and live in the lowland tropical forests of Asia and Southeast Asia.
Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Jake Socha, renowned for his work with flying snakes, recently teamed with Boston University and George Washington University researchers to explore snakes' lift and wakes using computer simulations. They describe their work in the journal Physics of Fluids.
Previously, experiments in a wind tunnel had returned an unexpected finding: the snake's shape is not only good at generating a force of lift, but it also gets an extra boost of lift when facing the air flow at a certain angle.
"After experiments uncovered this, we decided to use computer simulations to try to explain it," says Lorena Barba, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the George Washington University.
So much of the aerodynamics of animal flight -- especially that of flying snakes -- remain a mystery. Scale is important, but also the manner in which flight is achieved.
"Rather than fixed wings, animal fliers have flapping wings," explains Barba. "In the case of gliders, their small scale means they're always in a flurry of whirling winds. By understanding how they can be graceful and efficient under these conditions, we can in turn use that knowledge to create small flying machines that are equally graceful."
Whirls of wind can be particularly useful: these little vortices "can give flying snakes an extra lift," notes Barba. "The shape of the snakes in flight -- which is a flattened version of its shape at rest -- gets help from little vortices around it."
Next, the researchers would like to include more elements of the snake's real gliding conditions into their computer simulations, such as its full body forming an S-shape, rather than working with just a section.
"This will be more difficult to do in a computer model, but it will probably reveal more about the complicated flow patterns snakes take advantage of to be such gifted gliders," Barba says.
The article, "Lift and wakes of flying snakes" (DOI: 10.1063/1. 4866444) is authored by Anush Krishnan, John J. Socha, Pavlos P. Vlachos, L. A. Barba. It will be published in the journal Physics of Fluids on on March 4, 2014. After that date, it may be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/pof2/26/3/10.1063/1.4866444?
ABOUT THE JOURNAL
Physics of Fluids is devoted to the publication of original theoretical, computational, and experimental contributions to the dynamics of gases, liquids, and complex or multiphase fluids. See: http://pof.aip.org
Jason Socrates Bardi | EurekAlert!
What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society
Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy