Twitter Q&A

Sara Cabitza and Kevin Gouder, Imperial College London, hosted a Twitter Q&A on 4 July 2014 where they talked about smart wing design.

Read the storify of the Twitter chat.

Find out more about other exhibits hosting Q&As.

Hands-on at this exhibit

  • Design your own aerofoil
  • Watch a real shock wave
  • Watch a test of an aerofoil in a real wind tunnel
  • Balance a ping pong ball on a jet


Further reading

Hunt, J.C.R. et al. 2011 Interfaces and inhomogeneous turbulence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369, 811-830

Chinaud, M. et al. 2013 Trailing-edge dynamics and morphing of a deformable flat plate at high Reynolds number by time-resolved PIV. Journal of Fluids & Structures, to appear

Oxlade, A.R. et al. 2013 Control of entrainment in an axisymmetric bluff-body wake. Physical Review Letters, in review


Progress in turbulence, mechanics of materials and control is enabling scientists to improve aerodynamic performance by imitating nature in reducing aircraft noise and air resistance to flight itself. 'Smart', bio-inspired technologies together with new dynamically controlled aerodynamic shapes are making flight more environmentally friendly, economically attractive and even safer.

We can improve aerodynamic performance by imitating nature in reducing aircraft noise and air resistance to flight. Find out how bio-inspired technologies together with new dynamically controlled, aerodynamic shapes, are making flight safer and more environmentally friendly.

Nature shows us a way into a complex scientific problem – the interaction between a fluid and a structure such as a wing. A combination of new insights into turbulence with new deformable materials is leading to new ways of adapting and controlling wings to respond to complex flows. For example, Kagome lattices, which can generate waves that pass through a wing with a flexible surface, can be used to reduce aircraft drag. Using piezoelectrically-induced stresses in wires mounted in the surfaces of wings, the trailing edge can be distorted to generate trailing-edge vibrations.

Surprisingly, these trailing-edge distortions stimulate small eddies near the surface which reduce the undulating interface between the turbulence and the smooth outer flow. Furthermore, electrically active ‘feathers’ (formed using a new generation of polymers) enhance these micro-circulations and beneficially modify the pressure distribution past the wing.

These new technologies are being studied with computer simulations of unsteady airflows and with novel techniques for simultaneous measurement of the airflow and deforming wing surfaces. This represents a considerable advance on current ways of using wings to control aircraft with rigid elements, such as ailerons, tabs, and vortex generators.

Find out more:

Lead image: The wake created behind an axisymmetric bluff body at low wind speed