London: Scientists studying the flexible
wings of insects have discovered what makes them so efficient
compared to the rigid wings of a man-made aircraft.
Researchers at Oxford University and the University of
New South Wales used high-speed video cameras to capture how
locust wings change shape in flight, then reconstructed these
shape changes in 3D using computer modelling, and finally ran
simulations to discover how the wings enable the tiny insects
to make inter-continental flights.
A report of the research has been published in this
week's Science journal.
"Until very recently it wasn't possible to accurately
model the wings of insects in flight, partly because they flap
so fast and partly because their shape is very complicated,"
said an author of the paper, Dr Graham Taylor of Oxford
University's Department of Zoology.
"But with faster cameras and advanced 3D simulation
technology, we can now see that the reason locust wings are so
efficient is that the wing's complex, changing shape ensures
that air always flows smoothly over its surface, never
becoming detached as it would with a flat wing.
By channeling the airflow in this way, insect wings
produce about 50 per cent more lift than similar rigid wings."
First Published: Friday, September 18, 2009, 13:52