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Flight of the smallest insects

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GFSW01 - Form and deformation in solid and fluid mechanics

A vast body of re-search has described the complexity of flight in insects ranging from the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to the hawk moth, Manduca sexta. Over this range of scales, flight aerodynamics as well as the relative lift and drag forces generated are surprisingly similar. The smallest flying insects (Re10) have received far less attention, although previous work has shown that flight kinematics and aerodynamics can be significantly different. In this presentation, we have used a multi-pronged approach that consists of measurements of flight kinematics in the tiny insect Thysanoptera (thrips), quantification of wing morphology, measurements of flow velocities and forces using physical models, and direct numerical simulations to compute flow and lift and drag forces. The lift to drag ratio during hovering flight decreases significantly as the Re decreases below 10. The clap and fling mechanism of lift generation does augment lift forces 30%, however, peak drag can increase almost an order of magnitude due to viscous effects from wing-wing interaction. Bristles can reduce these peak forces, and may aid in passive flight behavior.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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