[i],. Stall is the dramatic and abrupt loss of lift due to angle of ascent.[ii] A whale fin works quite the opposite of a golf ball’s divots because as air passes over a golf ball, its flow becomes less and less attached to the ball whereas in the whale fin, it becomes more attached to the surface as it passes over.
Technological applications available
While the application possibilities are vast, the only current application in use for whale fin biomimicry is in wind turbines. Due to the fin’s ability to handle steep angles while avoiding stall, the turbine blades can be oriented at a higher angle to capture more of the wind without worrying about the severe damage that stalling causes.[iii] Capturing more of the wind creates more energy and leads to less turbines being needed as the efficiency continues to increase with current research. Using computational fluid dynamics simulations, many mechanical engineers are attempting to scale the size of the fin to smaller version to be used in commercialized industrial fans. By replacing conventional blades with whale fin shaped blades, the fans can move more are and ventilate a larger area with fewer blades, use 20% less power and only generate one fifth of the noise. Another obvious field to look into with whale fin technology is in airplanes: however major advancements have yet to be achieved. In theory it would allow the plane to operate at higher angles due to its stall capabilities. Some 3D-CAD models and simulations also show that by utilizing the characteristics found in the makeup of the whales fin, they could generate enough lift to allow the elimination of the heavy mechanical components that are needed to add lift to current airplane wings. Eliminating this extra weight, along with the increase in lift and decrease in drag, would make it much more economical for airplanes to fly and which would make it more cost-effective to fly or allow for more fuel storage and therefore increased flight range. In military applications, the ability to create lighter, faster and more maneuverable aircraft has always been the focal point when it comes to plane designs.
[i] Fish, F.E.; Battle, J.M. “Hydrodynamic Design of the Humpback Whale Flipper” 1995 J. Morphol 225 pg 51-60
[ii] MongaBay.com “Whale Biomimicry Inspires Better Wind Turbines” July 7, 2008
[iii] Marshall, Jessica Discovery News “Whales, Dolphins Inspire Wind Turbine Tech” July 11, 2008