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April 22, 2019: Flapping flight in air and water: Bio-inspiration from tiny insects and sea butterflies

  • April 22, 2019
  • 4:00 p.m.
  • 100 Hancock Hall
  • Dr. David Murphy, University of South Florida
  • Faculty Host: Dr. Olivier Coutier-Delgosha


Abstract: The flapping of wings is a common locomotion technique for tiny animals in both air and water. Insects flap their wings to fly in air, and zooplanktonic marine snails called sea butterflies flap wing-like appendages (called parapodia) to "fly" in water. Despite the thousand-fold difference in density between air and water, the flight systems of these very different animals show surprising similarities in how the wings move and in how they generate lift. These similarities point towards the possibility of designing a bio-inspired micro-aerial vehicle capable of aerial and aquatic flapping flight. We present high speed body and wing kinematics and time-resolved flow measurements of various pteropod species swimming in water and of tiny, mm-scale insects flying in air in order to examine low Reynolds number flapping flight. The effect of extreme wing flexibility is further examined through the use of a soft robotic wing model.

Bio: Dr. Murphy has been an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida since 2016. He received his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2012 from the Georgia Institute of Technology and subsequently served as postdoctoral fellow in Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He also received an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and an MPhil in Biological Science from Cambridge University. He completed a double BS in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research interests include biological, ecological, and environmental fluid mechanics, and he received an NSF CAREER award in 2019 to research the low Reynolds number fluid dynamics of flapping locomotion by small organisms in both air and water.