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Biomimicry & aerodynamics:
A commonplace

The challenge is the same in many industries, particularly in aeronautics or in the automotive industries: the future of these sectors depend largely on their ability to reduce the environmental impact of their technologies, particularly in regard to CO2 emissions.

An essential lever: improving aerodynamic finesse. Aerostructures, bodywork, airfoils, propellers and blades: biomimicry is an ideal tool of technological design to review or improve industrial methods and approaches concerning aerodynamics.

Many species of birds, insects or even aquatic animals have amazing movement abilities.

They are juggling effort, speed and endurance. 
Biomimicry, which is not new to the field, seeks to understand how these forms and coatings present in nature can enlighten the adoption of new design approaches for industrial structures and components. The goal: reduce drag, improve aerodynamic finesse, reduce turbulence vortex, stabilize movement, reduce friction,...

The aeronautics industry is one of the most advanced in terms of bio-inspiration: winglets inspired by large raptors (-4% consumption), aerodynamic varnishes inspired by the skin of sharks (-2% consumption). The use cases are already numerous.

There are still many opportunities to explore.
Here is a particularly striking example.

The humpback whale is a cetacean of impressive size: 13 to 15 meters long and nearly 40 tons.

Despite this, it is a particularly agile marine animal, capable of hunting herring or salmon: it is capable of sharp turns to trap or chase its prey.

This size vs. agility duality surprises marine biologists. They discover that part of the mystery lies in the humpback whale's anatomical features.

  Indeed, it owes its agility to the tubercles present on the leading edges of its fins. A peculiarity that defies common sense: how can such a deformed and non-smooth surface be so hydro- and aerodynamic? 

Since then, the aerodynamic effects of these protuberances have been widely studied:

Tubercles reduce drag by almost 8%. They also accompany the flow of air so as to delay the stall and to increase its angle by almost 40%! Other advantages, although not demonstrated to date, have been mentionned: reduction of noise pollution and increase in lift.

Capture du 2020-04-09 14-28-47.png

Diagrams produced by the Bioxegy team, as part of an infrastructure project carried out with one of our partners. The tubercles of the fins, placed upstream of the phalanges on the leading edge, allow, among other things, to stabilise and group together the disturbing vortices.
©Bioxegy | Right diagram partly based on figures from: True & William, the whalebone whales of the western North Atlantic, 1904 

This discovery has since led to many bio-inspired technologies:

The ZIPP company, expert manufacturer of bicycle wheels, opted for a design that reproduces the protrusions of the fin to improve the aerodynamics and stability of the whole structure: a patented technology that has significantly reduced  the drag experienced by the wheel.


In Canada, one of the experts who highlighted the aerodynamic phenomena created by tubercles launched the company WhalePower.

It has designed a bio-inspired wind turbine blade that uses the principle of protrusion on the leading edge to improve the performance of the airfoil. Result: the wind turbine thus equipped has a 20% higher yield and is activated by weaker wind forces.


Other promising prospects for biomimicry in industrial sectors


Biomimicry & lightweight design:
a winning bet



Biomimicry & NVH: improving noise and vibration mitigation technologies


Biomimicry to cope with the elements (abrasion, erosion, oxidation)


Biomimicry, sensing and information processing : shaping the intelligent systems of the future


Biomimicry & tribology:
a promising technological duo

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