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Review
. 2008 Jan;211(Pt 2):224-33.
doi: 10.1242/jeb.007575.

When Wings Touch Wakes: Understanding Locomotor Force Control by Wake Wing Interference in Insect Wings

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Review

When Wings Touch Wakes: Understanding Locomotor Force Control by Wake Wing Interference in Insect Wings

Fritz-Olaf Lehmann. J Exp Biol. .
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Abstract

Understanding the fluid dynamics of force control in flying insects requires the exploration of how oscillating wings interact with the surrounding fluid. The production of vorticity and the shedding of vortical structures within the stroke cycle thus depend on two factors: the temporal structure of the flow induced by the wing's own instantaneous motion and the flow components resulting from both the force production in previous wing strokes and the motion of other wings flapping in close proximity. These wake-wing interactions may change on a stroke-by-stroke basis, confronting the neuro-muscular system of the animal with a complex problem for force control. In a single oscillating wing, the flow induced by the preceding half stroke may lower the wing's effective angle of attack but permits the recycling of kinetic energy from the wake via the wake capture mechanism. In two-winged insects, the acceleration fields produced by each wing may strongly interact via the clap-and-fling mechanism during the dorsal stroke reversal. Four-winged insects must cope with the fact that the flow over their hindwings is affected by the presence of the forewings. In these animals, a phase-shift between the stroke cycles of fore- and hindwing modulates aerodynamic performance of the hindwing via leading edge vortex destruction and changes in local flow condition including wake capture. Moreover, robotic wings demonstrate that phase-lag during peak performance and the strength of force modulation depend on the vertical spacing between the two stroke planes and the size ratio between fore- and hindwing. This study broadly summarizes the most prominent mechanisms of wake-wing and wing-wing interactions found in flapping insect wings and evaluates the consequences of these processes for the control of locomotor forces in the behaving animal.

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