Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Borrowing From Whales to Engineer a New Fluid Sensor

03.03.2015

How can a humpback whale and a device that works on the same principle as the clicker that starts your gas grill help an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fly longer and with more stability?

Well, it all starts with biological structures called tubercles that the whale uses for its unique maneuvers in the ocean. Felix Ewere, a doctoral student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), made a mechanical version of the wavy-looking biological structures and attached it to a piezoelectric energy harvester.


Michael Mercier / UAH

Felix Ewere, left, and Dr. Gang Wang near a wind tunnel they use for testing in UAH’s Olin B. King Technology Hall. Inside the tunnel is their latest miniaturization effort, while Ewere holds the intermediate effort and Dr. Wang holds the initial device constructed.

The piezoelectric principles the harvester uses convert mechanical action into electricity just like the red piezoelectric button on your gas grill does.

Humpback whales have rounded tubercles located on the leading edge of their fins.

“For anything under the action of fluid, two forces are created – a lift force and a drag force,” Ewere says. “For the humpback whale, these tubercles increase the lift and reduce the drag as it moves through the water. They are what enables it to breech the surface of the water.”

Borrowing from the whales, the new device is used to harvest energy and can be employed as an airflow or fluid speed and direction-sensing device. So UAV designers can use the “galloping piezoelectric” principle to design better craft by placing sensor piezoelectric devices all over their models to test them to determine how they behave in the fluid currents of air. Plus, they can attach the devices to the UAV as harvesters to generate power to extend its battery range.

Ewere has a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in aerospace engineering, and for his doctorate he joined his fluid physics experience to the piezoelectric expertise of his doctoral advisor, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Dr. Gang Wang.

“He actually introduced me to piezoelectrics,” Ewere says.

The initial problem was to determine whether greater efficiency using wind could be attained so that the piezoelectrics could better harvest energy. Dr. Wang says he presented the problem, but Ewere is the one who came up with an interesting solution that ultimately took the pair in another direction.

“I just threw the question to him, and he found the answer for me, which is using this biologically inspired concept,” Dr. Wang says. “One day, he just knocked on my door and said, ‘Dr. Wang I want to try this one.’ ”

Next came wind tunnel experiments.

“We were trying to get more force and induce more strain by using this idea” to improve energy harvesting ability, Ewere says. It turned out that efficiency wasn’t increased but the pair discovered through experimentation that the devices could serve as a form of passive control. That makes them useful as measuring devices for air flow speed and direction.

“This is a new kind of flow sensor,” Ewere says. “A regular flow sensor will just tell you the magnitude of the wind, but this also shows you the direction.”

Work has progressed on miniaturizing the components to widen applications. Placing the sensors arrays on a helicopter, for example, could help engineers determine aerodynamics that could improve low speed and low altitude flight stability or reduce its acoustic signature.

Its energy harvesting capabilities are also being explored for use to charge the batteries that power small devices to track bird populations, extending their research life.

Now the theoretical work and design concept phases are drawing to a close and Dr. Wang is looking for applications funding.

“For three or four years now, we have been drawing up the basics of this, and we have done the basic research,” Dr. Wang says. “Now I have the tangible benefits for it, but to take it to the next level I need a boost from an interested funding agency.”

Contact Information
Jim Steele
Research Writer/Editor
jim.steele@uah.edu
Phone: 256-824-2772

Jim Steele | newswise
Further information:
http://www.uah.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>