Application of shark skin flow control techniques to airflow

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University of Alabama Libraries

Due to millions of years of evolution, sharks have evolved to become quick and efficient ocean apex predators. Shark skin is made up of millions of microscopic scales, or denticles, that are approximately 0.2 mm in size. Scales located on the shark’s body where separation control is paramount (such as behind the gills or the trailing edge of the pectoral fin) are capable of bristling. These scales are hypothesized to act as a flow control mechanism capable of being passively actuated by reversed flow. It is believed that shark scales are strategically sized to interact with the lower 5% of a boundary layer, where reversed flow occurs at the onset of boundary layer separation. Previous research has shown shark skin to be capable of controlling separation in water. This thesis aims to investigate the same passive flow control techniques in air. To investigate this phenomenon, several sets of microflaps were designed and manufactured with a 3D printer. The microflaps were designed in both 2D (rectangular) and 3D (mirroring shark scale geometry) variants. These microflaps were placed in a low-speed wind tunnel in the lower 5% of the boundary layer. Solid fences and a flat plate diffuser with suction were placed in the tunnel to create different separated flow regions. A hot film probe was used to measure velocity magnitude in the streamwise plane of the separated regions. The results showed that low-speed airflow is capable of bristling objects in the boundary layer. When placed in a region of reverse flow, the microflaps were passively actuated. Microflaps fluctuated between bristled and flat states in reverse flow regions located close to the reattachment zone.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Aerospace engineering