Acta Mechanica Sinica

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 24–31 | Cite as

Large aerodynamic forces on a sweeping wing at low Reynolds number

  • Sun Mao
  • Wu Jianghao


The aerodynamic forces and flow structure of a model insect wing is studied by solving the Navier-Stokes equations numerically. After an initial start from rest, the wing is made to execute an azimuthal rotation (sweeping) at a large angle of attack and constant angular velocity. The Reynolds number (Re) considered in the present note is 480 (Re is based on the mean chord length of the wing and the speed at 60% wing length from the wing root). During the constant-speed sweeping motion, the stall is absent and large and approximately constant lift and drag coefficients can be maintained. The mechanism for the absence of the stall or the maintenance of large aerodynamic force coefficients is as follows. Soon after the initial start, a vortex ring, which consists of the leading-edge vortex (LEV), the starting vortex, and the two wing-tip vortices, is formed in the wake of the wing. During the subsequent motion of the wing, a base-to-tip spanwise flow converts the vorticity in the LEV to the wing tip and the LEV keeps an approximately constant strength. This prevents the LEV from shedding. As a result, the size of the vortex ring increases approximately linearly with time, resulting in an approximately constant time rate of the first moment of vorticity, or approximately constant lift and drag coefficients. The variation of the relative velocity along the wing span causes a pressure gradient along the wingspan. The base-to-tip spanwise flow is mainly maintained by the pressure-gradient force.

Key Words

model insect wing sweeping motion high lift leading-edge-vortex 


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Copyright information

© Chinese Society of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sun Mao
    • 1
  • Wu Jianghao
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Fluid MechanicsBeijing University of Aeronautics & AstronauticsBeijingChina

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