The coupling of passive structural response of flexible membranes with the flow over them can significantly alter the aerodynamic characteristic of simple flat-plate wings. The use of flexible wings is common throughout biological flying systems inspiring many engineers to incorporate them into small engineering flying systems. In many of these systems, the motion of the membrane serves to passively alter the flow over the wing potentially resulting in an aerodynamic benefit. In this study, the aerodynamic loads and the flow field for a rigid flat-plate wing are compared to free trailing-edge membrane wings with two different pre-tensions at a chord-based Reynolds number of approximately 50,000. The membrane was silicon rubber with a scalloped free trailing edge. The analysis presented includes load measurements from a sting balance along with velocity fields and membrane deflections from synchronized, time-resolved particle image velocimetry and digital image correlation. The load measurements demonstrate increased aerodynamic efficiency and lift, while the synchronized flow and membrane measurements show how the membrane motion serves to force the flow. This passive flow control introduced by the membranes motion alters the flows development over the wing and into the wake region demonstrating how, at least for lower angles of attack, the membranes motion drives the flow as opposed to the flow driving the membrane motion.
Experiments in Fluids – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 23, 2013
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