Vortex wake dynamics: the surprising connections between bat flight and tidal energy harvesting

Kenny BreuerProfessor of Engineering and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University

Abstract: Strong vortices shed into the wake by thin, compliant structures are characteristic of a wide variety of high Reynolds number flows. In this talk I will describe three configurations dominated by strong vortical wakes.  To kick things off, I will provide a sampling from our long-term effort to characterize, understand and model the aeromechanics that underpin the incredibly agile and maneuverable flight of bats.  This work has inspired two other research threads that have become prominent in recent years, Firstly, I will show measurements that support a model for a universal scaling of the growth of the leading-edge vortex from the sharp leading edge of a compliant plate. Lastly I will describe our work on hydrokinetic energy harvesting that harness the unsteady dynamics of the leading-edge vortex.


About the Speaker: Kenny Breuer received his Sc.B. from Brown University in Mechanical Engineering (1982) and his Ph.D. from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1988). He spent two years back at Brown as a Post Doctoral Fellow in Applied Mathematics and nine years on the faculty at MIT, before finally returning to Brown in 1999, where he is currently Professor of Engineering. In 2010 he received a courtesy appointment as Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. From 2011 to 2014 he served as Senior Associate Dean of Engineering for Academic Programs.


Professor Breuer’s research interests are in the broad field of Fluid Dynamics and cover a wide range of diverse topics. At the micron-scale, he has been active in the development of diagnostic techniques for micron-scale and near-surface velocimetry, in the characterization of slip flows, the mechanics of bacterial motility and flagellar and cilliar mechanics and the nanoscale flow near a moving contact line. At the macro-scale, he has worked on the mechanics of animal flight (particularly bat flight), vortex interactions with compliant structures and, most recently, energy harvesting from fluid flows.   With his students and collaborators, he has co-authored over one hundred peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, numerous book chapters, and has edited several books, including Microscale Diagnostic Techniques (Springer, 2004).


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