Creative Thinking Prompt: Invention Inspired by Nature

Creative Thinking Prompt: Invention Inspired by Nature

What do owls and humpback whales have in common?

Wind turbine blades!

Researchers Ian Clark, William N. Alexander, William J. Devenport, Stewart A. Glegg, Justin Jaworski, Conor Daly, and Nigel Peake looked at an owl’s silent predatory flight for inspiration to reduce the amount of noise that wind blades emitted. They noticed tiny hairs that look like fringe stuck up on wing feathers, which smoothed the air flow into a neat stream. After creating a 3D printed plastic coating that mimics the owl’s feather structure and applying it to the blade, turbine noise was reduced by fifty percent.

Biologist Frank Fish noticed bumps running along the fins on a humpback whale. Fish studied and discovered that these bumps create small vortices that help the fin cut through water. By developing a bumpy edge to a turbine blade, noise is reduced and efficiency increased. This is now known as the turbercle effect.

Edge of a prototype wind turbine blade – Whalepower Corporation

Creative Thinking Prompt: How might an owl or whale influence you to redesign or create a new common household item like a spoon, lawn mower, or bike?

EXTENDED CONNECTIONS:

https://cosmosmagazine.com/physics/turbine-blades-inspired-owls

https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/10-technologies-inspired-nature

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