Waggling wings could cut aircraft drag and emissions 20%
Wings which redirect air to waggle sideways could cut airline fuel bills by 20% according to research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Airbus. The new approach, which promises to dramatically reduce mid-flight drag, uses tiny air powered jets which redirect the air, making it flow sideways back and forth over the wing.
The jets work by the Helmholtz resonance principle – when air is forced into a cavity the pressure increases, which forces air out and sucks it back in again, causing an oscillation – the same phenomenon that happens when blowing over a bottle.
Dr Duncan Lockerby, from the University of Warwick, who is leading the project, said: “This has come as a bit of a surprise to all of us in the aerodynamics community. It was discovered, essentially, by waggling a piece of wing from side to side in a wind tunnel.”
“The truth is we’re not exactly sure why this technology reduces drag but with the pressure of climate change we can’t afford to wait around to find out. So we are pushing ahead with prototypes and have a separate three year project to look more carefully at the physics behind it…”
The new micro-jet system being developed by Dr Lockerby and his colleagues could reduce skin friction drag by up to 40%. If successful this technology could also have a major impact on the aerodynamic design and fuel consumptions of cars, boats and trains.
Glad he’s already thinking about cars and trains. It was the first thing that came to mind.
Improving aerodynamics is effective in automobile engineering at surprisingly low speeds. BTW – I don’t care if this makes our four-wheeled friends a bit uglier. Saving money and fuel – and the environment – ain’t ever ugly to me.