Humpback Whale Inspires Wind Turbines

Frank Fish, whose field just happens to be biomechanics, actually came about his observations of the humpback whale serendipitously when he saw a sculpture of a humpback with what he thought were misplaced tubercles on the whale's flipper. The artist had placed them on the "leading" edge of the flipper, not on the underside of the flipper, where Fish "knew" they should be because of his study of fluid dynamics (i.e, smooth edges are most aerodynamic).

The artist was correct, however, and Fish's further research indicated that at least part of the science of fluid dynamics was wrong. The tubercle placement on the humpback whale's flippers and tail is a major part of the reason the great mammal is so aerodynamic - or as MIT's Technology Review called it, hydrodynamic.

Early wind tunnel tests of model flippers with tubercles by the U.S. Naval Academy showed that wind drag was reversed by 32 percent and lift was increased by eight percent. Other studies showed similar results. Corresponding design changes to airplane wings would seem to make sense considering these results.

Source: inventorspot.comAdded: 14 July 2009