Scientists from the University of Cambridge have designed a new material mimicking the wing structure of owls that could act as a silencer on wind turbines, planes, computer fans and other appliances.
Wind turbines could be allowed to spin more quickly and generate more power by applying a new noise-dampening technology inspired by the birds.
Some large owls such as barn owls are able to fly in near-silence, enabling them to hunt by stealth as they swoop down on their prey by night.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge and three US institutions studied the wings of owls and identified developed a new kind of prototype material to imitate the features that make them so quiet.
Tests on a turbine blade in a wind tunnel cut noise by up to 10 decibels, without having a noticeable effect on its aerodynamics, they found.
The analysis of the birds’ wings highlighted three noise-dampening features: a flexible comb of bristles along the leading edge of the wing; downy covering on the flight feathers; and a porous and flexible fringe on the trailing edge.
The researchers sought to mimic the noise-scattering effect and carried out successful trials using material similar to that used on wedding veils.
They then developed a prototype material using 3D-printed plastic and tested it in a wind tunnel.
The researchers now plan to test the material on a full-size functioning wind turbine.
Adapted from an article in Telegraph By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor.