When the albatross stretches its 12-feet-long pair of wings, it can glide for thousands of kilometres without even a single flap.
Click start to play today’s Word Search, where the word “aerodynamics” has us considering how the art of creating aircrafts imitates Nature.
It’s common to look to Nature for engineering inspiration. In fact, there’s a whole field of study that combines science with innovation: biomimicry or biomimetics.
In this spirit, aeroplane designers have long observed animals for ideas on how to optimise flight. In 2009, for instance, engineers from US-based Stanford University’s applied aerodynamics research centre, Aircraft Aerodynamics and Design Group, found that planes that flew in a V-formation (just like many bird species), could harness the efficiency of aerodynamics and consume 15 per cent less fuel.
Passenger airline manufacturers are looking at making changes for greater efficiency, too.
In early 2012, France-based aeroplane manufacturer Airbus (which makes the world’s largest passenger plane, the A380) revealed that their future planes would be flatter, to mimic the bone structure of the most efficient birds. Their wingtips would also be designed to curl slightly to add lift – just like an eagle’s. And to minimise the plane’s friction, they would use exterior paint that’s as smooth as a shark’s skin.
Sharks are some of the most aerodynamic creatures in the world. In a February 2018 report published in the UK-based Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers found that the small, tooth-like scales on their skin, called denticles, reduced drag to help thrust the sharks forward, and also increased lift.
The study has huge implications for numerous modes of transport – human-made denticles could be applied to airfoils on planes, drones, cars and wind turbines, to make them much more efficient.
With an eye to animals that soar, glide and swim so effortlessly, there are endless possibilities that biomimicry will explore and unravel, to help make man faster and more competent.