Thursday, March 6, 2008

Whale-Inspired Windmills

From MIT's Technology Review:

Mimicking the bumps on humpback-whale fins could lead to more efficient wind turbines.

Marine scientists have long suspected that humpback whales' incredible agility comes from the bumps on the leading edges of their flippers. Now Harvard University researchers have come up with a mathematical model that helps explain this hydrodynamic edge. The work gives theoretical weight to a growing body of empirical evidence that similar bumps could lead to more-stable airplane designs, submarines with greater agility, and turbine blades that can capture more energy from the wind and water.

"We were surprised that we were able to replicate a lot of the findings coming out of wind tunnels and water tunnels using relatively simple theory," says Ernst van Nierop, a PhD candidate at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. He coauthored the study with mathematics professor Michael Brenner and researcher Silas Alben....MORE