imitating nature to increase efficiency of blades

January 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

Biomimicry of the serrated fins of humpback might boost performance of blades

In a previous post – Sycamore Nature Inspired Ceiling Fan – I have mentioned of the  trend among engineers and industrial designers who are just starting to discover and study models in nature that evolved to perfect designs after millions of ears of evolution.

This time the serrated fins of humpback whales seem to be one more such brilliant design engineered by nature.

These bumps, called tubercles, are what’s allowing a whale the size of a truck to make tight turns and hunt the prey with amazing speed and agility. The physics of the fluid flowing over the fins reveals a significant drag compared to classic fins, each tubercle redirecting and driving air over the flipper, the result being a vortex that improves lift.

Monica Bowden, CEO of Envira-North Systems – Canada’s largest supplier of industrial ceiling f ans – sais that the tests they ran after licensing the design from the Toronto-based WhalePower, holder of the patent, showed “a 20 percent drop in energy use, a significant drop in noise decibels, and overall distribution of air was more even”. Also a fewer number of blades per fan will decrease costs and less material will be used to produce them so a few more environmental credits are earned also.

Envira-North Systems' design

(upper part of the collage  is Courtesy of WhalePower; the below half is by Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star)

One great idea would be to combine the fan blades that imitate the Sycamore seed design with some  bumps like the ones on the fins of humpback whales and make the “skyn” of the blade sharkskin-like and see what happends… perhaps another revolution in renewable energy.

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