Marine applications of the biomimetic humpback whale flipper

The biomimetic approach seeks technological advancement through a transfer of technology from natural technologies to engineered systems. The morphology of the wing-like flipper of the humpback whale has potential for marine applications. As opposed to the straight leading edge of conventional hydrofoils, the humpback whale flipper has a number of sinusoid-like rounded bumps, called tubercles, which are arranged periodically along the leading edge. The presence of the tubercles modifies the water flow over the wing-like surface, creating regions of vortex generation between the tubercles. These vortices interact with the flow over the tubercle and accelerate that flow, helping to maintain a partially attached boundary layer. This hydrodynamic effect can delay stall to higher angles of attack, increases lift, and reduces drag compared to the post-stall condition of conventional wings. As the humpback whale functions in the marine environment in a Reynolds regime similar to some engineered marine systems, the use of tubercles has the potential to enhance the performance of wing-like structures. Specific applications of the tubercles for marine technology include sailboat masts, fans, propellers, turbines, and control surfaces, such as rudders, dive planes, stabilizers, spoilers, and keels.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fish, FE; Weber, PW; Murray, MM; Howle, LE

Published Date

  • 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 45 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 198 - 207

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0025-3324

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.4031/MTSJ.45.4.1