Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Following the Leader Can be a Drag, According to Student's Research on Flapping Flags

11.11.2008
Graduate student Leif Ristroph found that two or more flexible objects in a flow - flags flapping in the wind, for example - experience drag very differently from rigid objects in a similar flow.

From the Tour de France to NASCAR, competitors and fans know that speed is only part of the equation. Strategy -- and the ability to use elements like aerodynamic drafting, which makes it easier to follow closely behind a leader than to be out in front -- is also critical.

But in some cases, drafting happens in reverse: It's the leader of a pack who experiences reduced drag, while the followers encounter more resistance -- and have to expend more energy to keep up.

In research published in the Nov. 7 issue of Physical Review Letters (Vol. 101: No. 194502), Cornell fourth-year physics graduate student Leif Ristroph and New York University researcher Jun Zhang used a simple tabletop experiment to show that two or more flexible objects in a flow -- flags flapping in the wind, for example -- experience drag very differently than rigid objects in a similar flow.

The findings could help biologists understand a variety of phenomena, including why animals like fish and birds travel in groups.

"It's counterintuitive," said Ristroph. "People who have studied schooling fish and flocking birds always postulate that they flock because the ones downstream can save energy, and the guy who's at the front has to work harder. Here's a case where that gets turned on its head."

To test the effects of a flowing fluid on flexible objects, Ristroph created a thin film of soapy water -- the beginning of a giant soap bubble -- stretched between two fishing lines and constantly refreshed with a flow of water from the top. Into the membrane, he inserted pieces of thin rubber (the flags) -- attached to perpendicular wire "flagpoles."

To measure the forces on the flags as water flowed past them, Ristroph attached small mirrors -- actually microscope cover slips -- to the far ends of the "flagpoles." As the flags flapped in the flow, the slightly flexible poles moved correspondingly -- and by shining a laser light on the mirrors, Ristroph could see the movements magnified and traced on a far wall.

He also used optical interferometry -- a technique based on the way light waves interfere with each other -- to measure the fluid flow around the flapping flags.

Instead of finding that the front flag took the brunt of the drag and following flags experienced less resistance, he found that for two flags close together, the front flag flapped less and thus experienced less drag -- even relative to a single flag without a follower. For the follower, he found the reverse: The flag oscillated more and experienced correspondingly more drag.

"That was completely unexpected," Ristroph said. Additional experiments with multiple flags and different spacing showed that the effect is consistent for closely spaced objects and drops off as the space between them increases.

The effects aren't fully understood, Ristroph said. "It appears that the follower is sort of confining the flow at the trailing edge of the leader, so it feels like he can't flap as hard; [and therefore] the amplitude of the leader is reduced." For the follower, the oscillations of the leader likely cause a resonating effect, increasing the follower's flapping and thus its drag.

"This is now like a two-way conversation, where the fluid talks to the object, and the object talks back," Ristroph said.

"Simulating this is very difficult," he added. "The theory and the simulation really cannot handle how to deal with the flow and an object that has flexibility.

"You often have to do the experiment," he said. "And when you do the experiment you can get something that is counterintuitive."

Ristroph performed the research during a summer fellowship at NYU through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Training in Nonlinear Systems program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Blaine Friedlander | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

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,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

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...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

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...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

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...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>