Effect of wing-wake interaction on aerodynamic force generation on a 2D flapping wing

Kim Boon Lua, T. T. Lim, K. S. Yeo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


This paper is motivated by the works of Dickinson et al. (Science 284:1954-1960, 1999) and Sun and Tang (J Exp Biol 205:55-70, 2002) which provided two different perspectives on the influence of wing-wake interaction (or wake capture) on lift generation during flapping motion. Dickinson et al. (Science 284:1954-1960, 1999) hypothesize that wake capture is responsible for the additional lift generated at the early phase of each stroke, while Sun and Tang (J Exp Biol 205:55-70, 2002) believe otherwise. Here, we take a more fundamental approach to study the effect of wing-wake interaction on the aerodynamic force generation by carrying out simultaneous force and flow field measurements on a two-dimensional wing subjected to two different types of motion. In one of the motions, the wing at a fixed angle of attack was made to follow a motion profile described by "acceleration-constant velocity-deceleration". Here, the wing was first linearly accelerated from rest to a predetermined maximum velocity and remains at that speed for set duration before linearly decelerating to a stop. The acceleration and deceleration phase each accounted for only 10% of the stroke, and the stroke covered a total distance of three chord lengths. In another motion, the wing was subjected to the same above-mentioned movement, but in a back and forth manner over twenty strokes. Results show that there are two possible outcomes of wing-wake interaction. The first outcome occurs when the wing encounters a pair of counter-rotating wake vortices on the reverse stroke, and the induced velocity of these vortices impinges directly on the windward side of the wing, resulting in a higher oncoming flow to the wing, which translates into a higher lift. Another outcome is when the wing encounters one vortex on the reverse stroke, and the close proximity of this vortex to the windward surface of the wing, coupled with the vortex suction effect (caused by low pressure region at the center of the vortex), causes the net force on the wing to decrease momentarily. These results suggest that wing-wake interaction does not always lead to lift enhancement, and it can also cause lift reduction. As to which outcome prevails depend very much on the flapping motion and the timing of the reverse stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-195
Number of pages19
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2011


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