Aerodynamic forces and flows of the full and partial clap-fling motions in insects

PeerJ. 2017 Mar 9:5:e3002. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3002. eCollection 2017.


Most of the previous studies on Weis-Fogh clap-fling mechanism have focused on the vortex structures and velocity fields. Detailed pressure distribution results are provided for the first time in this study to reveal the differences between the full and the partial clap-fling motions. The two motions are studied by numerically solving the Navier-Stokes equations in moving overset grids. The Reynolds number is set to 20, relevant to the tiny flying insects. The following has been shown: (1) During the clap phase, the wings clap together and create a high pressure region in the closing gap between wings, greatly increasing the positive pressure on the lower surface of wing, while pressure on the upper surface is almost unchanged by the interaction; during the fling phase, the wings fling apart and create a low pressure region in the opening gap between wings, greatly increasing the suction pressure on the upper surface of wing, while pressure on the lower surface is almost unchanged by the interaction; (2) The interference effect between wings is most severe at the end of clap phase and the start of the fling phase: two sharp force peaks (8-9 times larger than that of the one-winged case) are generated. But the total force peaks are manifested mostly as drag and barely as lift of the wing, owing to the vertical orientation of the wing section; (3) The wing-wing interaction effect in the partial clap-fling case is much weaker than that in the full clap-fling case, avoiding the generation of huge drag. Compared with a single wing flapping with the same motion, mean lift in the partial case is enhanced by 12% without suffering any efficiency degradation, indicating that partial clap-fling is a more practical choice for tiny insects to employ.

Keywords: Clap-fling; Navier–Stokes simulation; Tiny insects; wing–wing interaction.

Grants and funding

This research was supported by a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (11232002). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.