Scientists discovered a new method to reduce an airliner’s consumption and fuel costs by redirecting the air to waggle sideways around the wings. They are doing this with tiny air powered jets, making the air flow back and forth over the wing.
This is not a new principle – in fact, Helmholtz postulated the principle back in the 1800s. The Helmholtz principle is the following: when air is forced into a cavity the pressure increases, which forces air out and sucks it back in again, causing an oscillation – the same phenomenon that happen when blowing over a bottle.
The man leading the project, dr. Duncan Lockerby, from the University of Warwick, says they discovered this effect on wings by waggling a piece of wing from side to side in a wind tunnel. “The truth is we’re not exactly sure why this technology reduces drag but with the pressure of climate change we can’t afford to wait around to find out. So we are pushing ahead with prototypes and have a separate three year project to look more carefully at the physics behind it.”
This kind of thinking could be applied in many other areas of science, where they don’t exactly understand how a phenomenon works. It would be interesting to see if this technology could be applied to current commercial aircrafts around the world.