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Owls' silent flight is commonly attributed to their special wing morphology combined with wingbeat kinematics. One of these special morphological features is known as the leading-edge serrations: rigid miniature hook-like patterns found at the primaries of the wings' leading-edge. It has been hypothesized that leading-edge serrations function as a passive flow control mechanism, impacting the aerodynamic performance. To elucidate the flow physics associated with owls' leading-edge serrations, we investigate the flow-field characteristic around a barn owl wing with serrated leading-edge geometry positioned at 20° angle of attack for a Reynolds number of 40 000. We use direct numerical simulations, where the incompressible Navier–Stokes equations are solved on a Cartesian grid with sufficient resolution to resolve all the relevant flow scales, while the wing is represented using an immersed boundary method. We have simulated two wing planforms: with serrations and without. Our findings suggest that the serrations improve suction surface flow by promoting sustained flow reattachment via streamwise vorticity generation at the shear layer, prompting weaker reverse flow, thus augmenting stall resistance. Aerodynamic performance is negatively impacted due to the shear layer passing through the serration array, which results in altered surface pressure distribution over the upper surface. In addition, we found that serrations increase turbulence level in the downstream flow. Turbulent momentum transfer near the trailing edge increased due to the presence of serrations upstream the flow, which also influences the mechanisms associated with separation vortex formation and its subsequent development over the upper surface of the wing.

This article was published as Open Access through the CCU Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund. The article was first published in Physics of Fluids:

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.