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Whale Energy

October 10, 2007

The shape of humpback whale flippers could make wind energy more efficient.


Can whales solve the energy crisis? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

At up to 20 feet in length, the flippers of the humpback whale are the largest of any marine mammal. Yet the whales use their flippers to maneuver easily around their prey. This is because the large bumps on the leading edge of the humpbacks’ flippers create extra lift and allow water to flow over them more efficiently. Now engineers have designed new windmill blades that mimic the unique shape of the flippers. According to marine biologist Frank Fish of West Chester University, preliminary tests have been promising.

FRANK FISH (West Chester University):
What these bumps tend to do is allow us to get more power out of the windmill blade and allow the blade to work at lower wind speeds.

Fish says the whale-inspired windmill design could generate large amounts of electricity in areas of low wind. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.