As the understanding of the workings of the biological world expands, biomimetic designs increasingly move into the focus of engineering research studies. For this thesis, two studiesinvolving leading edge vortex generation for lift production as observed in nature were explored intheir respective flow regimes. The first study focused on the steady state analysis of streamwise vortices generated byleading edge tubercles of an adult humpback whale flipper. A realistic scaled model of a humpbackflipper was fabricated based on the 3D reconstruction from a sequence of 18 images taken whilecircumscribing an excised flipper of a beached humpback whale. Two complementary modelswith smooth leading edges were transformed from this original digitized model and fabricatedfor testing to further understand the effect of the leading edge tubercles. Experimentally-obtainedforce and qualitative flow measurements were used to study the influence of the leading edgetubercles. The presence of leading edge tubercles are shown to decrease maximum lift coefficient(Cl ), but increase Cl production in the post-stall region. By evaluating a measure of hydrodynamicefficiency, humpback whale flipper geometry is shown to be more efficient in the pre-stall regionand less efficient in the post-stall region as compared to a comparable model with a smooth leadingedge. With respect to a humpback whale, if the decrease in efficiency during post-stall angles ofattack was only required during short periods of time (turning), then this decrease in efficiencymay not have a significant impact on the lift production and energy needs. For the pursuit ofbiomimetic designs, this decrease in efficiency could have potential significance and should beinvestigated further. Qualitative flow measurements further demonstrate that these force results aredue to a delay of separation resulting from the presence of tubercles.The second study investigated explored the effects of flapping frequency on the passive flowcontrol of a flapping wing with a sinusoidal leading edge profile. At a flapping frequency of f =0.05 Hz, an alternating streamwise vortical formation was observed for the sinusoidal leading edge,while a single pair of vortices were present for the straight leading edge. A sinusoidal leading edgecan be used to minimize spanwise flow by the generation of the observed alternating streamwisevortices. An increase in flapping frequency results in these streamwise vortices becoming stretchedin the path of the wing. The streamwise vortices are shown to minimize spanwise flow even afterbeing stretched. Once instabilities are formed at f ≥ 0:1 Hz due to velocity shearing generatedby the increase in cross-radial velocity, the alternating streamwise vortices begin to break downresulting in a increase of spanwise flow.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





3D reconstruction, humpback whale flipper, flipper morphology, leading edge tubercles, vortex, generator, streamwise vortex, flapping flight, oil flow visualization, sinusoidal leading edge