Wind tunnel tests of scale-model humpback whale flippers have revealed that the scalloped, bumpy flipper is a more efficient wing design than is currently used by the aeronautics industry on airplanes. The tests show that bump-ridged flippers do not stall as quickly and produce more lift and less drag than comparably sized sleek flippers.
The tests were reported by biomechanicist Frank Fish of West Chester University, Penn., fluid dynamics engineer Laurens Howle of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and David Miklosovic and Mark Murray at the U.S. Naval Academy. They reported their findings in the May 2004 issue of Physics of Fluids , published in advance online on March 15, 2004.
In their study, the team first created two approximately 22-inch-tall scale models of humpback pectoral flippers -- one with the characteristic bumps, called tubercles, and one without. The models were machined from thick, clear polycarbonate at Duke University. Testing was conducted in a low speed closed-circuit wind tunnel at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Deborah Hill | EurekAlert!
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